The first cat café in the U.S. may open its doors in San Francisco as early as this summer. Called KitTea, the shop will serve up tea and snacks, with a side of feline companionship. The shop will source locally-made snacks and baked goods, in addition to fair-trade organic teas.
Cat cafés got their start in Asia, but are now popping up around the globe. The first cat café in London, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, opened earlier this month and there are rumors about similar shops in the works in New York and Montreal.
KitTea has launched a crowd-funding campaign, which co-founder Courtney Hatt said allows them more independence than seeking traditional investors. She also hopes it will get people excited for the café. "The big reason I wanted to do crowd-funding is that I wanted to have pre-sales and initially seed a demand for KitTea," she said, "and to make it more of a community effort."
Unlike Lady Dinah's in London, which serves primarily as a permanent home for rescued cats, KitTea hopes to facilitate adoptions. Which means an exciting twist: lots of kittens!
Adult cats tend to become territorial, and some are less comfortable with lots of other cats and new people. That's why KitTea has decided to mainly foster groups of kittens. "We want this to be a great place for humans, but really this is a space for cats," said Hatt. "It's a cat oasis. It's a space where they can feel safe, and comfortable, and socialize."
"Rather than being in a shelter, which is where we're getting [our cats], they will be happy and less stressed," said Hatt. "They'll be more adoptable in that respect. Often when you see a cat in shelter, it's really stressed out, and because it's frightened, it's going to come off aloof or mean or aggressive, when the cat may not be like that at all."
Hatt grew up surrounded by animals: rabbits, cats, dogs, Guinea pigs, hamsters, reptiles, fish. "I love all animals," she said. "I think that's something that I try to clarify. I don't just love cats." She currently has three cats of her own.
In addition to her love of animals, Hatt also has experience with San Francisco's startup scene and café culture, having worked with startups for the past five years. She hopes that KitTea will be a place where people with a common interest in cats can meet, unlike the usual cafe scene where telecommuters stay ensconced behind their screens. "At KitTea, you'll actually have something in common to talk about," she said.
KitTea fits right in with the rise of the sharing economy, services that allow people to benefit from sharing without becoming owners. "San Francisco was really first on the scene for that, with Sidecar, Lyft and AirBnB," said Hatt. "People are definitely more open minded and community-minded."
Cat cafés also offer people who don't have the time or means to care for pets to experience the benefits of hanging out with kitties. Hatt says she finds petting her cats to be relaxing, and research has shown that pets can be associated with health benefits. "They're naturally zen," said Hatt. "It's a great way to relax and take away stress. It's kind of like going to the spa, but with fur."
At the time of publication, KitTea is still short of their crowd-funding goal and has 15 days to get there. If you'd like to contribute check out their website.