Pet shop owners have become the latest victims of the fallout from COVID-19 and, in turn, the creatures themselves.
A Khmer Times investigation discovered cats and dogs are not being bought up for re-sale because of the cost of their upkeep and even birds, rabbits and fish are being kept in unsanitary conditions at some premises as potential customers shy away.
There are several pet shops on and around St 63 near Central Market in Phnom Penh at which the owners reported a dramatic slide in sales since the Novel Coronavirus struck. They are even facing difficulties in importing animals from overseas.
They are spending more money on food for the pets than they make from the relatively few sales.
Most pet shops have now closed, including three of the four cat cafes, but not, so far, CHHMA Catfe, which opened in June 2018 on St 178 – the first cat cafe in Phnom Penh – is still operating although it’s facing hard times because of a lack of customers.
Its owner, Chhorn Sovanda, said, “Before the pandemic my business was flourishing and the catfe was always filled with tourists and locals. But since March the business has gone down. We have lost 50 percent of business. We do not know how long we can survive. We cannot shut our cafe because we have 24 cats living in the shop which need daily care and attention. And there are regular local customers who frequently visit the cafe to spend some quality time with the cats.”
Customers are charged $2.50 if they don’t order a drink but want to sit with the cats and $1.50 to sit with them with a drink.
Sovanda researched cat cafes in Japan and noticed customers there were charged $5 every 30 minutes just to sit with the furry purrers.
He said they cannot offer coffees online like other shops to help make ends meet because the main attraction of his establishment is the cats. He said, hopefully after COVID-19 is over and the ban on tourist visas is lifted the business can recover – if it survives that long,
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.