KitTea: San Francisco's First Cat Cafe Is Opening

Sparky nibbles on my finger as I chat with Lisa Quattrini of Give Me Shelter, the rescue organization that will provide cats to KitTea, the highly anticipated cat cafe due to open in April.

“We have quite a few here that we think would be star performers,” she says. Sparky, a black-and-white former stray once scheduled for euthanasia, is one of them. Though I've never owned a cat, I'm already falling hard for his big eyes and sandpaper tongue. Put some tea in my hand and I might even sign the adoption papers. 

[jump] And that's just the idea. The tea-and-cats business model has already been a wild success: The only other such place in the Bay Area, Oakland's Cat Town Cafe, has a six-month-long waiting list. Lisa hopes that KitTea can tap into this growing revolution by attracting people who wouldn't normally adopt a cat. “I think people have a hard time going into a real shelter environment, because it's an emotional drain,” she says. “But if they come to a setting where the cats are relaxed and having fun, it takes that negative feeling away.” 

When KitTea founder Courtney Hatt came up with the idea over two years ago, she had a similar thought in mind. “Bonds between humans and animals are mutually beneficial,” she says. With funds from angel investors, a grant from the Petco Foundation, and money raised in a crowdfunding campaign, the cafe is now under construction in Hayes Valley.

Though cats won't be allowed in the tea area, patrons will be able to order tea in the adoption room through a delivery window. Customers will still be able to view the animals from any part of the Japanese-inspired cafe through the glass walls. 

As relaxing as KitTea sounds for humans, the adoption center design will prioritize the cats' welfare over your need for oolong. Give Me Shelter will have volunteers on site to monitor the cats (there will be about 10 cats at a time) and carefully introduce them to patrons who stroll in and out of the tea room. Just as you will have chairs and magazines, the felines will have cat trees and padded shelves for their own pleasure, as well as a private back room retreat to avoid overstimulation (aka annoying humans).

For Give Me Shelter, the partnership with KitTea is more than just a fun idea, it's a life-saving boon. The volunteer-run organization receives daily calls for cat rescue missions. and although they have managed to save many cats who would otherwise be euthanized, they sometimes don't have the space to take them all. Cats are placed on euthanasia lists for a host of reasons, including minor medical problems, minor behavioral problems (often just stress), and lack of space in shelters. 

But after learning that Oakland's Cat Town can't re-up their cats fast enough, Lisa is hopeful. “We'd love to have that problem,” she says. “The partnership with KitTea is going to help us save a lot more lives.” 

The relatively quiet nature of cats makes them ideal animals for a cafe, and it's hard to imagine KitTea's business model working with dogs or, say, llamas. But Lisa and Courtney think cat cafes signify an overall trend toward more creative partnerships between rescue organizations and businesses. So dog whisperers out there, hope is alive: perhaps creative dog adoption strategy like this one at a North Carolina Hotel will one day catch on at the Saint Francis.  

Love tea and cats? You can contribute to KitTea's crowdfunding campaign here

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