A strong advocate for furkids eating fresh, Crystle Tan—former accountant and founder of popular local pet bakery and kitchen Feed My Paws— hopes to inspire paw-rents with her wholesome, innovative creations and recipes. By Justina Tan
Find out how this pet bakery rises to the occasion.
Bark-day cakes and handmade pet treats are now staples for the modernday paw-rent, which explains why competition is rife among pet bakeries here. Although Instagram is flooded with polished images of intricately piped doggy cakes, @feedmypaws stands out for its heartfelt posts and innovative food products for furkids.
Founded four and a half years ago by 31-year-old Crystle Tan, Feed My Paws has gained a reputation for its fun, wholesome treats and snacks inspired by trendy human foods. The former accountant and social media executive left her day job in 2011 to become a dogsitter and it was then that she discovered she had an interest in and a knack for preparing furkid-friendly meals and treats.
Although her first menu had just pork jerky, peanut butter fudge, and pork with apple and cinnamon cookies, her repertoire has since expanded to include pupcakes, bark-day cakes and adorable jungle-themed dog cookies in dazzling hues. However, she has put cakemaking on hold since her 15-year-old Chihuahua, Skotch, was diagnosed with liver cancer last September. “He may need emergency vet care at any point. I
don’t want to cancel anyone’s cake order at the last minute and ruin their birthday,” says Crystle.
Unlike many pet bakeries that are hesitant to reveal “trade secrets”, Crystle hopes to share her knowledge via video tutorials and classes to encourage more paw-rents to prepare home-cooked meals and treats for their furkids. “I faced a challenge last year when I saw my recipes being used for profit by others. It made me stop sharing recipes completely for a while because I was furious at how unethical people can be. But I’ve since taken it in my stride and changed my mindset. Sometimes you can’t help but inspire people, right?” she quips.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Although many of Crystle’s bestsellers are fairly straightforward, customers love her monthly limited edition items, such as the tiny rainbow-hued heart-shaped cookies she made for Valentine’s Day and bak zhang (a pork tenderloin or salmon pyramid stuffed with a whole quail egg, organic pumpkin, and leafy greens) she created for Dragon Boat Festival this June.
“I’m a foodie and I love trying out all sorts of new snacks for humans once they hit the market. There seems to be a new craze every year, like unicorn cupcakes and messy buns. I just feel so bad when I eat them and my furkids watch me! So that serves as my number one inspiration—to allow them to enjoy what I’m eating, just more suited to their dietary needs,” shares Crystle. However, she avoids checking out competitors’ websites and Instagram feeds, as she doesn’t want to risk creating something similar.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Crystle spends 60 to 70 hours a week in the kitchen and goes through an average of 10 to 12kg of meat/fish and 4 to 5kg of vegetables weekly. Only grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wildcaught salmon and organic vegetables are used in her products. “I spend more time in the kitchen than anywhere else in my home,” she shares.
Among her favourite tools for the job are a convection oven, a large dehydrator, a food processor, a slow cooker, a sharp knife, and toothpicks. To create the vibrant hues in some of her treats, Crystle steams, blends and squeezes the juice from vegetables such as beetroot, spinach, kale, butterfly pea, sweet potato and turmeric.
Feed My Paws isn’t licensed by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore to produce food for dogs or cats, and Crystle has no intention of getting a licence as it requires a brick and mortar store with a kitchen. “I love working from home as I get to be with my furkids, which is important to me. The thought of opening a physical store and putting profit above all else doesn’t sit well with my goals as well,” she explains.
Out of the time she spends in the kitchen, eight hours a week are devoted to meal prep for her 11 furkids: Skotch, the cancerstricken senior Chihuahua; Hoovy, a 10-year-old Pomeranian-German Spitz cross; Boo Boo, a two-year-old Munchkin cat; and eight hamsters. The dogs and cat are all on different diets because of their varying ages and health conditions, which require additional effort from Crystle. “My husband and I have always placed the furkids as priority, so the grass-fed beef and organic chicken goes to them. Anything left in the budget goes to us,” she says with a chuckle.