Is the idea of opening a cat café too crazy for Oakland to handle? It certainly doesn’t seem so.
The ambitious Cat Town Café project, which is set to be a space where visitors can enjoy a coffee and bagel while simultaneously having quality cat playtime, is coming closer to fruition.
Founders Ann Dunn and Adam Myatt have been working since January to make their ideas a reality, and announced on July 1 that they secured a lease for a space at 29th and Broadway. Oakland’s first cat cafe is now set to open as soon as September, which could also make it the first in North America.
Also participating in what Myatt calls “friendly cat competition” is KitTea, the proposed San Francisco cat cafe that is projected to open sometime in 2014, according to its website.
Cat Town Café’s big move was made possible with the help of two Indiegogo campaigns for the cafe, which collectively raised over 40,000 dollars. In addition to numerous donors supporting the project, local East Bay companies Bicycle Coffee and Authentic Bagel Co. have committed to being vendors for the store.
Dunn, founder of the local cat rescue organization Cat Town, and Myatt, founder of Hoodcats and also known as the “Cat Man of West Oakland” first met at the end of last year, after realizing that they both shared a love for cats and the idea of opening a cat cafe in Oakland.
Myatt’s entrance into the cat scene began when he started taking pictures of cats while on tour with his bandmates. When he was back home in West Oakland, he realized there were cats around his neighborhood — which he called “hood cats,” since they hung around the edge of downtown and the edge of West Oakland, a “no man’s neighborhood.” After questions from his friends about what he would do with his photos, he came up with the idea of kickstarting a calendar featuring the hoodcats themselves. Within the first year of hoodcats, the calendars sold out, and the success only continued with this past year, when Myatt made and sold a thousand orders.
Dunn’s work with cats began as a former volunteer at the Oakland Animal Shelter, where she began realizing that cats were being euthanized because they were scared of their environment.
“They were measured by the reaction of being in the shelter, which wasn’t necessarily an indication of who they are,” Dunn said, inspiring her to remove cats from a shelter setting to see how they naturally behaved. Dunn envisioned a more uplifting environment where people could meet cats — which is how Cat Town was born. “I think the cafe is just going to be such an exponential growth of that,” said Dunn.
Although it would be a big achievement to be the first cat cafe to open on the continent, Dunn emphasizes that it isn’t as important as the reality that cats who need homes are going to be adopted much more quickly. She described it as a “a way to lure people in that’s sort of passive.” Instead of entering a shelter space, which Dunn noted can be “depressing,” people who don’t necessarily come in with the intention of adopting a cat can have the opportunity to come into the cafe, get coffee, hang out and get to know the cats, making a much more positive adoption experience. Dunn said that she and Myatt are working with cat behaviorists to design the space and make sure it’s a low-stress environment.
From the perspective of our furry four-legged counterparts, Dunn pointed out, “If you’re waiting for a home, would you rather be sitting in this tiny little cage or be in the space where you’re running around and having fun?”
Dunn said that “this is a crisis time of year” for cats, since it’s the season for kittens to be born, which can push the shelter to becoming more full than it already is. She pointed out that a September opening date is even more crucial since the primary time for adoption is Labor Day to the end of the year. “It’s just urgent for us to get open and running,” said Dunn.
Although Cat Town Cafe has reached a huge portion of its goal, it has still fallen short of its projected $60,000. However, a private backer has reached out to the duo and offered to match a $10,000 donation if they can raise $10,000. To support Myatt and Dunn in their endeavors to help the future kitties of Cat Town Cafe, you can donate here.
“It’s awesome to be building this community of people all around cats and just further shows how crazy Oakland is,” Myatt concluded.