The race to open the first cat café in the US

You may have heard of cat cafés, meeting places where people can relax with a cup of coffee or tea and hang out with, observe and interact with a group of friendly resident felines. The first cat café opened in Taiwan in 1998, and since then they’ve become popular in Japan and other parts of Asia. Cat cafés have even begun opening in parts of Europe as well, including one in France, Spain, Germany and Austria. While a temporary “pop-up” cat café opened in New York for a few days earlier this year, United States residents haven’t yet had the luxury of a permanent cat café—until now! Cat lovers in the San Francisco Bay Area will hopefully soon have not one, but two cat cafés in their own backyard.

The first cat café, called KitTea, is scheduled to open in San Francisco later this year and will be populated with adoptable cats from two local shelters. A second cat café, Cat Town Café, is in the works for Oakland and will be an extension of Oakland’s Cat Town shelter. This cat café will also focus on adoptions, but everyone will be welcome to come in for a cup of coffee and playtime with the cats. There is also a third cat café in the works; Purringtons Cat Lounge plans to offer wine, beer and a limited selection of snacks and is slated to open in Portland this fall.

Most cat cafés charge a small admission fee, and there are usually posted rules governing interactions with the cats such as discouraging visitors from disturbing sleeping cats. For health and sanitation reasons, the areas where the cats are free to roam are separated from food preparation areas, and the cats will have feline-only zones where they can escape for some alone time or visit the “powder room.”

There are a number of food service regulatory hurdles to overcome to open a cat café in the US, and a number of planned cat cafés have fallen by the wayside. We’ll have to wait and see which one has the honor of becoming the first permanent cat café in the United States. Until then, if you’re looking for some quality bonding time with a cat, why not volunteer at your local shelter?

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