Khmer New Year High Time for Phnom Penh’s Pet Sitters

It’s dinnertime at My Furry Place. Dogs of all shapes and sizes follow the whiff of brown rice and beef liver into the kitchen of Elma Placido, the owner of this pet sitting business in Phnom Penh. In an adjacent room, about eight cats are perched on any bit of furniture they can find.

“It’s important I integrate them into my own family,” said Ms. Placido, watching her guests gobble down their dinner. “They live in my room and I treat them like my own.”

For Ms. Placido, Khmer New Year is a boom time for business. And as more expats make their home in Phnom Penh, business is getting better all the time.

“We are getting busier every year because expats are in need of these places…and more foreigners are bringing their pets with them to Cambodia,” she said.

Ms. Placido, originally from Manila, opened her animal haven in 2012 following years of taking in strays and adoptees.

Over the holiday, Ms. Placido has 15 animals in her care, not including her own. After Khmer New Year, she’ll go back to looking after between two to four pets daily.

In Phnom Penh’s Kompong Svay commune, Sok Soeun manages Pet Resort, the main—and currently only—competitor of My Furry Place. He also said business is growing at a good clip.

The Pet Resort, which opened in 2008, charges between $10 to $15 per day for both cats and dogs. During the off-peak season, Pet Resort has about five to 10 animals in its care. This week, it is looking after 24.

“We always have foreign customers and few Khmer people,” Mr. Soeun said, adding that Cambodians with pets are more likely to leave their pets at home and have them looked after by family or domestic help.

Dogs at Pet Resort are housed in cages from six to 24 sq meters, some of which include thatched roofs and mosquito nets. The cats are housed in cushioned cages with riverside views, according to the company’s website.

As more expats are coming to Cambodia from the developed world, including Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, companies offering services such as pet sitting are in a good position for expansion, Mr. Soeun said.

“Pet sitting is becoming popular in Phnom Penh and will continue to be as more Asian and Western expats stay here and spread the word that there are places that can care for their pets when they want to go away,” he said.

Nicola Scales, founder of Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS), said Cambodia’s pet scene has matured significantly since she came to the country six years ago, as foreigners have seen Cambodia as a more permanent place to live.

“Cambodia is not seen as a hardship post anymore. It’s seen as a lot more civilized and people feel getting a pet is not such a big hassle,” she said. “You see a lot more people walking dogs.”

Back at My Furry Place, Kitty, a tortoiseshell cat, is a regular guest. Kitty’s owner, Anneliese Helmy, a self-employed businesswoman, says that having a trustworthy person to take care of her cat, who she adopted five years ago, makes it much easier to leave town.

Ms. Helmy said pet ownership is growing among expats who either adopt or rescue animals, driving a parallel rise in the need for pet-related services.

“I can see it becoming more in demand as [Westerners] are more used to needing services for our pets,” she said.

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