Undoubtedly, the Internet has been good to cats. A bit of a chicken-and-egg quandary, it’s hard to definitively say if cat-love drives cyberspace, or if cyberspace drives users to new-found levels of cat-love.
One thing is certain: Oakland is not afraid to embrace both cats and the Internet. The success of last year’s CatVidFest, an event that both celebrated cats of the Internet and helped local felines, made sure that it will be back on Oakland’s Great Wall this year. Now, thanks to the efforts of two long-time cat advocates, Oakland may be the home to North America’s first Cat Café.
Adam Myatt, the “Cat Man of West Oakland” of Hood Cats fame, and Ann Dunn, founder of Cat Town — a nonprofit working to take vulnerable cats out of the shelters and place them into foster homes for further adoption — have teamed up to launch Cat Town Café, a cat adoption center with a twist.
The pair recently launched an indiegogo campaign with a goal of raising $60,000, and have the backing of Oakland-based Pet Food Express, who are matching the first $10,000 raised in the crowdfunding campaign, among other support.
Modeled in part on the cat cafés in Japan, where visitors can get their cat-fix while enjoying a cup of tea, the project is racing for the esteemed title of “first cat café in North America” against similar projects currently underway in San Francisco and Montréal (where one can only assume the cats speak a delightful Québécois).
Cat Town Café is unique in focus, however, as all the cats at the café will be relocated from local shelters and available for adoption. Building off the current mission of Cat Town, the café will provide a physical space where people can interact with adoptable cats in a more pleasing setting (for both people and cats) than the local animal shelter.
“The original idea came from looking at how many great cats there are at the shelter, but knowing that people would never go to the shelter because they are afraid they are going to be leaving in tears,” said Dunn. “We hope to make it as easy as possible for people to go to a place in their neighborhood where they can adopt a cat,” she said.
Dunn explained that the idea came to her several years ago, “without knowing anything about the cafés in Japan,” she said. “I thought, if people were just sitting around drinking coffee anyway, why not spend time with cats at the same time?”
Oakland Local caught up with Myatt and Dunn while they were out looking for possible café spaces around Rockridge Bart, close to Pet Food Express’ North Oakland location.
Myatt explained that unlike the cafés in Japan that have cats living permanently at the space, “the goal is to get cats out of the shelters, into our space and then out into homes,” he said.
The pair explained that they’ve received an outpouring of support from the Oakland community, including Oakland Animal Services and Pet Food Express, which makes the dream seem a tangible reality. Even the health department, which normally frowns on mixing animals and eateries, has been helpful.
“We found someone really sympathetic [at the health department],” said Dunn. “They walked us through exactly what we will have to do to satisfy health department regulations.”
“Basically, we can’t cross the café side with the cat side of things,” added Myatt.
To help meet health department regulations, the café won’t have any food preparation on-site, but will bring in offerings from various local vendors, like Bicycle Coffee and Authentic Bagel Co., who have already reached out to Myatt and Dunn to offer their enthusiasm with the project.
“It’s really grown organically,” said Dunn, of the café project.
“It seems like everything is falling into place,” added Myatt. “We’re hoping to open this summer, but we’ll see. We’re moving as fast as we can and it’s been a bit of a crazy ride. We’re flying by the seat of our pants, basically,” he said.