Feline friends looking for a caffeine fix, rejoice! Cat cafés have come at last to America.
The very first permanent cat café in the U.S. opened this week in Oakland, Calif. At Cat Town Café, there are two sections: humans can order coffee and munch pastries on one side of the café, while a dozen cats romp and lounge on the other. (The division of food from felines pleases the health codes.) A donation of $10 to Oakland Animal Services—Cat Town’s partner and the organization that rescued the cats roaming Cat Zone—can reserve a spot to engage in kitty play or cold shoulders. (Forgive them, they just don’t get you.)
Temporary pop-up cafés have enchanted residents of Los Angeles and New York. And San Francisco, Denver and San Diego all have permenant cat cafés in the works. But the cat café phenomenon started in Taiwan in 1998, writes Natasha Gelling for Smithsonian, and then spread to Japan:
While it might seem like a gimmicky fad, the cafés actually attract a large number of tourists and locals alike. In Japanese cities, many residents lack the space or time to care for their own cats, and the cat cafés offer animal interaction for a minimal investment.
The cafés in Japan inspired the Oakland cafe’s co-founders, Adam Myatt and Ann Dunn, to mesh the concept with an alternative adoption center. “We started this really weird, random business together,” Myatt told Nicole Leonard of Boston.com, “Oakland is a pretty big high-risk area for euthanizing, so there’s a big need to get cats out of shelters. It’s all about getting more people into adoption.”
"The cafe is a more natural way to interact with cats than at a shelter, and it’s easier to picture yourself adopting and actually living with one of the cats,” said Dunn. Once a cat has been adopted, another shelter cat — chosen by volunteers based on their reactions in the space and around other cats — will take its place at the cafe. The model seems to be working. Cat Town Cafe has some of the mellowest cats I’ve ever met, and as of opening day afternoon, six of them had been adopted.