In 7½ years of writing the Coffee Spot, I’d never been to a cat café. However, all that changed last weekend when my friend Richard suggested visiting Cat Town in Oakland. It was America’s first cat café when it opened in 2014, adding the RAWR Coffee Bar, its own independent speciality coffee shop, in 2017. I wrote about RAWR earlier in the week, which you can visit in its own right, independent of Cat Town, while today’s Saturday Supplement focuses on Cat Town itself.
What makes Cat Town special in the world of cat cafés is that all the cats in residence are up for adoption, although you don’t have to be interested in adopting if all you want to do is visit and hang out with the cats. An hour with the cats will set you back $10, which goes towards covering Cat Town’s expenses. Although you can turn up on spec, booking ahead of time is recommended since Cat Town limits the number of people allowed in at any one time and it can get very busy. Note that while Cat Town is closed on Monday/Tuesday, RAWR is open, so you can still pop in for coffee.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Cat Town is on Broadway, where it occupies the entire ground floor on the corner of 29th Street, the building easily recognisable by its corner turret. Although there is a door on the corner, this isn’t used, and to get to Cat Town, you need to head a little way along 29th Street, where you’ll find the entrance to the RAWR Coffee Bar. Pop in here and Cat Town’s volunteers will sort you out with a visitor badge. Although there’s no obligation to buy a coffee, if you do, you’re welcome to take it with you when you go in to see the cats.
The door to Cat Town is at the end of the counter, to your left as you enter. The hour-long visits are on the hour, every hour, so you need to gather by the door at the allotted time, where you’ll be given a briefing on the rules (which are basically common sense: no picking up the cats and no petting or playing with sleeping cats). You’re then let into the main room through an airlock arrangement which ensures that the cats can’t easily escape.
Cat Town is split over two similarly-sized rooms, both of which are around the same size as the RAWR Coffee Bar. You enter via the back of the main room, a single, open space where the cats are free to roam. Here you’re welcome to pet, play with or just admire any of the cats (subject to the rules, of course). If a particular cat doesn’t want your attention, they’ll quickly let you know! If, for whatever reason, you can’t/don’t want to visit the cats, you can watch them through a large window in RAWR for just the price of a cup of coffee!
The second of the two spaces is off to the right and is split into a number of much smaller rooms. This is where the new arrivals and less socially confident cats live. The space is divided into a number of smaller, glass-walled rooms, each with two or three cats. The rooms can also be connected via internal doors, so you may find two or three rooms joined together, the cats free to roam between them. There are also rare occasions when a room just has a single cat who needs to be isolated, perhaps for medical reasons.
The private rooms are colour coded: red means no visits, orange means ask a member of staff first, while if the room is green, you’re allowed in, although the numbers of human visitors need to be kept to a minimum. There’s also a quiet room, where the cats are free to come and go as they please, but where visitors are limited to two at a time.
I said at the outset that all the cats at Cat Town are available for adoption, although you don’t have to be looking to adopt to visit (indeed, when I was there, only my friend Richard was a potential adopter). Cat Town works with the local animal shelters to take the hard-to-adopt cats: these are usually older cats, or cats who are shy, scared or stressed, or who simply haven’t been socialised. While cat shelters do a great job of rescuing animals, they’re not really set up to socialise or rehabilitate animals, which is where Cat Town comes in, taking the hard-to-adopt cats, giving them a home and, more importantly, giving them time and space to flourish before they find a permanent home with an adopter.
I spent a very happy hour in Cat Town, getting to know several of the cats, all of whom would make lovely companions for the right person (living on the other side of the Atlantic and travelling all the time rather ruled me out). Hopefully they will all find loving homes at some point. Until then I know that Cat Town will take good care of them.
|2869 BROADWAY • OAKLAND • CA 94612 • USA|
|Monday||CLOSED||Roaster||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Tuesday||CLOSED||Seating||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 19:00||Food||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Thursday||10:00 – 19:00||Service||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Friday||10:00 – 19:00||Payment||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Saturday||10:00 – 19:00||Wifi||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Power||See RAWR Coffee Bar|
|Chain||No||Visits||5th January 2020|
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