Coffee, Cats and Cookies: Adoption Cafe Opens in Oakland
By Doug Oakley Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org OAKLAND -- Oaktown is now Cat Town.
A new place to adopt a cat, drink coffee, eat a cookie and maybe buy a cat calendar opened on Broadway this month, and the owners of Cat Town Cafe say it's the first of its kind in the nation.
Co-owner Adam Myatt, 28, of Oakland, said the new space that opened Oct. 25 at the corner of Broadway and 29th Street is all about connecting people crazy for cats with, well, cats.
"It's something new and fresh that hasn't been done here, and people don't quite understand it," Myatt said, noting that the place has been full since opening day, and the press has been eating it up. "The whole mission is to get cats adopted, and it's fun to do that."
Myatt, a struggling musician and photographer who sells cat calendars, said he had heard about cat cafes and feral cat islands in Japan. The idea simmered in the back of his mind until he came across a fresh litter of cats and their mom across the street from his Oakland home.
He approached Ann Dunn, 49, who had started Cat Town, a cat adoption network since 2011, to find homes for his new feline friends, and the two hit it off immediately.
"I never imaged when I started volunteering at the Oakland animal shelter that it would lead to this," Dunn said as she took a shift in the Cat Zone, where humans meet cats. "At the shelter we see a lot of people who leave overwhelmed and depressed and empty-handed because they feel bad about taking one and leaving the rest in cages."
She said the Cat Zone was designed so cats have a nice place to live and adoptive owners feel better about the environment where the cats live.
She said in the past few years she often entertained the idea of a cafe next to a cat adoption center. Then she met Myatt.
"We connected on some kind of weird, crazy cat level," Myatt said. "I said to her 'I have these super cute, highly adoptable kittens. Can you point me in the right direction to finding them homes?' We got to talking about how to save cats, and I said, 'If you're down to start this really weird business, I am.' It was just crazy cat people connecting. It's a bizarre story for sure."
Cat Town Cafe has a cafe and a storefront area, where prospective foster cat parents can meet with cats who strut around carpet-covered replicas of Oakland landmarks: the Tribune Tower, City Hall, Port of Oakland cranes and, coming soon, a small cat house copy of a whale currently at Children's Fairyland in Oakland.
On Friday, 10-year-old Allie Blair, of Berkeley, was in the Cat Zone soaking up the cat culture. Blair already has three cats and a dog at home, but her love of cats brought her to the Cat Town Cafe twice already, even though she has no intention of adopting a fourth.
"I think the cats like it a lot better here in this room than they do in the shelter," Blair said. "They have more things to do and places to take a nap."
Dunn said the place is averaging about 140 visitors a day since it opened.
All the recent attention has resulted in good things for cats that Myatt and Dunn rescue from the Oakland Animal Services shelter.
"We've had 11 cats adopted since we've been open," Myatt said. "If we can keep that up, it will be amazing."
After the two talked about starting a cat cafe and adoption center, Myatt used some money he got from selling cat calendars to visit cat cafes in Japan.
"I went to 12 cafes and two feral cat islands," he said. "One of them was like 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'Snow White,' where you are transported into this weird world and it was like, 'Oh, this is what I want to do.'"
He said he and Dunn scraped together about $90,000 to rent the storefront and cafe space through an Internet crowdfunding pitch, a $20,000 donation from Pet Food Express and other individual donations.
With the sale of coffee, cookies and merchandise, the two hope to be able to start paying themselves and their volunteers.
Myatt said he loves all animals, but the universe somehow put cats in the forefront.
"I said to myself, 'I'm just going to follow this cat thing,'" Myatt said. "It's great. It's like a crazy cat people meet up space."
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