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”!
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.