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If you're anything like Louise, Claire, and me, you keep close tabs on the cat cafe scene — but there's one cat cafe that's particularly special and dear to my heart: Cat Town, located in North Oakland. It was the first cat cafe in the U.S. (KitTea tried valiantly to open earlier, but opening a business that isn't some obnoxious tech startup in San Francisco is like trying to turn a waterfall backwards), and the staff definitely 1) know what they're doing and 2) are obsessed with cats.
Every time I go (and yes, I go down almost every time I'm in the City), I bring at least one similarly cat-besotted friend to introduce them to the magic. I love playing with cats when I'm far from home because I miss my own, and because, let's face it, playing with cats is just fun.
Pop through the door at Cat Town and you'll see their front room, where you can pick up coffee and various sweeties, along with AMAZING merch. Think cash cats. Think about what that might look like. Think about how you need to go to Oakland to see a cash cat for yourself. Thank me later.
But the real fun happens when you head into the cat zone — which you will want to make a reservation for, because it fills up, especially on the weekends. Within the inner sanctum, you get a whole hour to play with cats, along with 11 other people (this is when enlisting friends is great because you can turn it into a social hangout...WITH CATS).
The gang at Cat Town are rotated out pretty regularly — they come from a variety of shelters and a foster network, and the staff are very conscientious about shelter stress. A few staffers and volunteers are always around in the cat room to keep an eye on those of all species to make sure things are going well. They're always happy to provide information to prospective adopters and they love talking about what their cats are up to.
Felines in residence only accept visitors a few hours a day on the five days a week that they're open, and they have a quiet room to retreat to when they've had enough human shenanigans.
Or they can, you know, take advantage of humans who feed them bonito flakes from the vending machine, play endlessly with ridiculous cat toys, or just lie on the floor and make inarticulate noises. Because cats. No I mean seriously.
I can't really explain the cat cafe thing. You either get it or you don't, I think. I mean, obviously you have to be a cat person, but even the cat people I know aren't necessarily rah rah cat cafes. Some people I guess figure they have cats at home so why bother visiting cats somewhere else, but my thing is that I really like cats.
I am that person who stops in the middle of the sidewalk to say hello to cats, I remember people cats' names and not theirs, and I'm deeply sad when I meet cats who do not want to hang out. (Hey, not all cats want to hang out. WHATEVER, CATS.) I've thus far valiantly avoided being burdened with ridiculous cat accessories and I'm sticking to that vow (despite the attempts to give me cat clocks, cat dishtowels, cat-shaped bowls, etc etc) — I like cats, not weird and creepy things with cats on them.
Let's refresh: Cats.
I know that cat (and other species) cafes arose in Japan, where many people can't have pets and there's limited space. For people who desperately love cats and can't have them for a variety of reasons, the ability to go hang out with kitties and meet a rotating cast of characters must be pretty excellent — I would have a really hard time living without cats in my life.
Even cranky ones. Look at this cat. She has no time for anything that you might be thinking about doing.
Cat Town also has an informal policy, set forth in the following exchange: