It’s 10:00 AM and Sara Pritchard is at a cafe in Oakland. But instead of tapping at a computer or chatting with a friend, she’s stalking the room looking for the perfect cat to snuggle. She’s at the new Cat Town Cafe, the first Cat Cafe in America.
There are cats sleeping under cat murals, cats pouncing on feather toys, there are even cats climbing on a miniature downtown Oakland. These coffee shops filled with cats are starting to open around the country. They’ve been a phenomenon in Japan, have spread across Europe, and have recently invaded Denver and Manhattan.
But if you think there will be a Siamese lounging on the biscotti, think again. The Cat Zone is separated from the coffee shop by a small hallway; an air lock, or as they call it, a “hairlock.” Staff from the food area can’t enter the Cat Zone during their shift and vice-versa. But patrons are welcome to bring their food in — that is the point after all.
But Cat Town is not a cafe that has cats, it’s an adoption center that lures in humans with its coffee shop.
“For me, this is cat rescue first and foremost. And the measure for me is how many cats are getting adopted,” says Cat Town Cafe founder Ann Dunn.
Cat Town makes it its mission to find homes for cats that aren’t doing well at the shelter. Dunn and her staff were at it for over three years before they opened the cafe. “This, hopefully, will become a model: cage free. Put them in an environment where they’ll thrive, and they’ll get adopted more quickly,” says Dunn.
It’s like the rebranding of cat adoption — and it’s working. A brown tabby named Anchor had been at the shelter for four months, but once he arrived, Anchor found a home within 2 hours. Before the cafe opened, Cat Town adopted out about a dozen felines a month. After two months here, that number is up to 59.
Actually, make that 60.
“We’re getting a cat!” Sarah Pritchard just made a friend: Guthrie. “There in the little bed right now, with the yellow eyes,” Pritchard says.
So the next time you grab a latte, you might leave with a new family member.
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