Exclusive Peek Inside “Cat Town”: 1st US Cat Cafe!

 

I’m excited to be writing about Oakland’s Cat Town Café today. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the founders, Adam Myatt on Tuesday, and in addition to sharing the story of how the café came to be, you’ll get a sneak peek at the 9 cats who are likely – at this very moment – preening for tomorrow’s grand opening! It’s an extra long post, but we think it’s well worth it and hope you agree. And be sure to “stay tuned,” because you’ll have the opportunity to feel like you were at opening day in America’s first cat café through photos taken from “embedded correspondent”!

First ever cat cafe in America opens in Oakland

When first I emailed Adam Myatt to set-up a call he quickly replied with, “I think we’ve emailed before,” and went on to say he’d be more than happy to chat.

I was befuddled and embarrassed. How could I possibly know the guy? Then dawned on me. OMG, it’s Adam, the “Cat Man of West Oakland”! I’d contacted him earlier this year about being in I HAVE CAT’s “Cat Man Monday” column and we’d exchanged a few emails.

The Cat Man of West Oakland, Adam Myatt

Adam Myatt with one of his “front yard” cats

 

When Adam and I did speak he was admittedly exhausted, and nervous about the upcoming opening. Yet I never felt he was trying to rush me off the phone and he thoughtfully and patiently answered all my questions.

Adam describes the cafe’s décor as “Playful – a Disney land for cats,” and has plans for five-foot-tall custom cat furniture designed to look like the skyline. Almost every photo of the café shows walls resplendent with colorful murals created by two cat-loving local Bay Area graffiti artists with quite a few famous cats woven in (Lil Bub, Grumpy, Nayan and others.).

Tiny and Pilot

Tiny and Pilot

 

The murals are not only cheerful but provide “visual interest (aka something for the humans to look at)” says Adam, given the cats may not always be up for playtime!

Eight to nine cats and up to fourteen people will occupy the 2,200 square foot café at any given time. Walk-ins are welcome and will not be charged a fee, but their ability for cat-time is not guaranteed and will be based on availability. All of the cats at Cat Town Café will be adoptable. Adam’s main objective is to increase the number of cat adoptions in Oakland.

Baby (left) and Cooper (right)

Baby (left) and Cooper (right)

 

So how’d this guy who works as a sound engineer and plays in a bad (sound familiar? Like Lil BUB’s dad Mike perhaps?) end-up as the guy opening America’s first cat café?

The idea began germinating when Adam met Ann Dunn, President of Cat Town, a foster-based non-profit rescue that partners with Oakland Animal Services, a high kill city shelter. Soon after meeting they began casually discussing the idea of opening a Cat Café in Oakland.

Oakland, CA cat cafe signs lease for first cat cafe in America!

Ann and Adam on lease-signing day!

As Adam put it, “we didn’t really know each other but we were like, ‘yeah, we can do this,’ and here we are less than a year later.” Not more than a few months after meeting, the two found themselves in Japan on a tour of at no less than 12 cat cafes to get ideas for their own café and an understanding of what could be improved upon. And yes, did visit Cat Island (so jealous!).

Below are just a few of the photographs from their trip was even documented by a local Japanese newspaper. At one point the two travelled six hours to check out a cafe that was closed that day! Videos of tall 12 cafes, Cat Island and general entertaining “experiences in Japan,” can be found on the The West Oakland CatMan website. I highly recommend you check out these short, entertaining videos.

Adam Myatt's visits to cat cafe's in Japan

Tokyo, cafe #1 (left) and Temarimoouchi Cat Cafe (right)

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.35.18 PM

Cat Island Cats by Adam Myatt

Cat at ferry station en route to Cat Island – how appropriate! (left) and Cat Island cats who are clearly used to striking a pose!

 

While you’d never know it from the videos, the trip reinforced Adam and Amy’s decision to have the cats at their café up for adoption. “The saddest thing about the cafes were that you couldn’t get the cast to purr…everyone is trying to constantly given them attention so they are over-stimulated. Most aren’t interested in interacting unless you have treats,” recounts Adam.

He also believes a, “rotating cast of cats make it more attractive for customers,” providing incentive to come back again and again to check out and the latest arrivals and given them a chin run.

Bryce and Glynda

Bryce and Glynda

 

The cats were, and will continue to be, selected with the help of the shelter and volunteers there who know their temperament. Adam is realistic that, “some cast we bring won’t do well, and we have an established foster care program for them, we only want cats that are flourishing in the café environment.’

“Feline Minds of Berkley,” a cat behavior consultancy was engaged to help craft the volunteer program and come up with the rules around how people should interact with the cats and how the folks working at the café should behave with customers to handle potentially sensitive situations.

It's undeniable that Adam is THE cat man of West Oakland, just check out how they wrap his bagel order and deliver his mail!

There’s no denying Adam’s status as THE cat man of West Oakland – check out his bagel order and mail delivery!

 

When asked if they’d considered a corporate sponsor, Adam said that they’d gone, “back and forth with a few…but our whole mission is about doing what’s best for the cats. We were approached by several well-marketed food and litter vendors, but turned them down…a lot of the bigger brands are basically the equivalent of McDonald for cats, and we’re hoping to be a sort of educational space about that sort of thing too.”

Pet Food Express, a local business, will be donating litter for the café and foster program as well as negotiating on the café’s behalf to get quality cat food. Treats available for purchase so visitors can entice the cats, will be supplied by RAWR (Eat Like a Lion), an Oakland-based company that makes dehydrated treats from locally sourced and sustainably raised chicken, duck and rabbit.

Pyramid playing and Teddy doing a quality check on the coffee beans.

Pyramid playing and Teddy doing a quality check on the coffee beans.

 

Adam is realistic about the difficulties that accompany the opening of a cat café and believes while many people say that want to start one, they ultimately do not come to fruition because, “not everyone understands the rescue business…it’s not easy and it’s stressful. A café or restaurant on its own is a challenge. Add a dozen living creatures and people and you could be up for a rude awakening.”

And just to make sure he had all the bases cover, Adam went so far as to work at Bicycle Coffee over the summer, the company providing locally roasted coffee for the cafe (though self-admittedly he worked at one of their more “mellow” locations!).

Last but not least, kitty #9, Fifa taking a snooze while she can!

Last but not least, kitty #9, Fifa taking a snooze while she can!

 

When I asked about his biggest challenge to date, or an unexpected obstacle he faced, Adam didn’t have to give it much thought, as it was still fresh in his mind. About two weeks ago, after the first health inspection walk through, they were chatting up the inspector asking him questions when he stopped all of a sudden – as if it had just dawning on him – and asked if they had a bathroom for humans in the “Cat Zone.” Um…no, they didn’t it hadn’t come up before.

So here they were with a café that was near completion – about 90% of the way there –  and they had to create plumbing for a bathroom out of nowhere! Talk about a mini-heart-attack moment! Thankfully the landlord and construction folks were on-hand and ready to help problem-solve.

Cat Town Cafe Murals, Oakland, CA

Ironically, this Cat Man is actually rather cat-less. His roommate is allergic. Perhaps that was the secret motivation for him to open up a café – to get his fill of cats during the day, so he can survive cat-less nights at home!

However, he does care for what he calls his “front yard cats,” three to four felines he’s trapped, fixed and feeds. He’s still working on one guy, a ginger he was able to trap and get to the vet but still can’t touch who he describes as having, “a messed-up ear but an awesome personality…a big girly cat.” And he cat-sits when he can!

The ginger "front yard" cat Adam is working on petting an entire year later. His "girly man" with the nub ear.

The ginger “front yard” cat Adam’s working on petting after an entire year.

 

We wish Cat Town the best of luck! Can’t wait to go visit there myself!  Can’t wait to post photos of tomorrow’s opening day! 

Cat Town Café will be open Wednesdays through Sunday’s from 8AM – 7PM, with the “Cat Zone” opening at 10am. Children 12 and under will need to be accompanied by a guardian. On Mondays and Tuesdays visits to the café will be by appointment only for adoptions.

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  • jmuhj

    Thank you and Adam for a wonderful article and pix, and a great, great project! P.S. Please let him know that it took quite a bit longer than one year for our formerly feral matriarch to “come in from the cold” and allow petting — on her terms, of course — and that while another one of “our” feral girls never did warm up to physical contact, yet another is now the quintessential “lap cat”! Cats, like people, are individuals, and one never knows what they’ll decide is acceptable — or when, or if — but patience, gentleness, kindness and love often rule the day! Good luck to him.

    • Tamar

      So glad you enjoyed! Awwww, I’ll let him know about the formerly feral 🙂

  • Ted

    Good luck with the opening!

  • Wow! It sounds like Adam is doing everything totally right, at least for the cats (how funny that he forgot about the human litter box facilities!). My human can’t wait to get a chance to go up north and visit the Cat Town Cafe!

    • Tamar

      LOL! it’s true, there was one but he needed two! I want to visit so bad, we should have a huge road trip!

  • Crazyolady

    He & Ann put in a lot of hard work & it shows! There are going to be a lot of happy “Cats”, thanks to them.

    • Tamar

      Couldn’t agree more!

  • Brigitte

    First in America? Nooo… Here in Quebec, Canada : http://www.cafechatlheureux.com/
    😉

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  • Well done, we have one in London which I visited last week. It was a great experience. As an owner of 4 cats all rescue cats I’m sure you’ll do a great job.

  • Best of luck with your cat cafe. Sounds like you have given it a great deal of thought, planning, time and energy and I really like the concept of rotating feline hosts who will maybe be pleased to have some extra loving and “Purr for the nice people, Tabby.”

  • This human seems to be all right. I wish him well in his endeavors.

  • kittiesblue

    Mom had heard about this happening from a friend in San Francisco. She is anxious to have the opportunity to visit the next time she is in CA. Please try to join us tomorrow for our Sunday Selfies Blog Hop. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista J

  • Mary the Cat Lady of Merced

    Your café sounds wonderful. I hope to drive up from the Valley to visit soon. Where are you located?

  • Congratulations to Adam on the successful open. I heard that on the first day, a cat was adopted. I only hope I will be so lucky.

    And before you ask, no, there is no cat fight here. I have nothing but good things to say about Cat Town and wish them every success in the world. If Tokyo by itself can have around 30 cat cafes, there’s no reason we can’t have many in the United States.

  • Sandy Marvin

    I want to say God bless you!! Cats are wonderful creatures and I am blessed with 3 who has chosen me for their mommy. We wish you and all of your furbabies the very best!!! I Wish there a cat cafe where I live. Maybe one day….

  • Cristina Lapa

    I hope I can go there one dat!!!

  • Austin

    Las Vegas could use a cat cafe.

  • Debbie Koop

    Sounds like a great idea. Raleigh, NC could use a cat cafe!

  • seems a good idea I love cats they are lovely creatures keep up good work all the best

  • Great story! I hope to visit it some day.

  • That is awesome! My mom and stepdad live in Alameda … we will definitely visit Cat Town when we visit them!

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