With hundreds of cafes brewing in the region, Bay Area coffee shops face tough competition. For the last seven years, however, one Oakland cafe has been slowly clawing its way to the top.
Cat Town has found success by serving up cups of coffee for a good cause. By partnering with Oakland Animal Services, the nonprofit doubles as an animal sanctuary for cats in need of a forever home.
The nonprofit arm was started by Ann Dunn, while Rawr, an organic cat food company, runs the coffee bar.
Cat Town’s inception began when Dunn was a volunteer at Oakland Animal Services. While there, she observed that the cats who could handle caged and noisy shelter environments — in other words, cats who appeared more charismatic — had an easier time finding a home. Those who withdrew from attention or appeared aggressive were often labeled "unadoptable."
But at Cat Town, those "unadoptable" pets are given free space to roam and, over time, become comfortable with people. The environment fosters socialization by allowing the cats to come and go as they please, rather than keep them cloistered in a cage or a small compartment.
The visibility the cats get while roaming around Cat Town’s playroom also seems to increase their rate of adoption compared to animals who stay in the shelter full time, said shelter staff. Cat lovers seem to gravitate toward the small shop.
"We get every type of cat lover in here," Cathy Niland, who leads communications for Cat Town, said. "And I think people appreciate us because, unlike other cat cafes, we’re a nonprofit."
Oakland Animal Services' euthanasia rate has dropped from 42 percent in 2011 to 14 percent in 2017.
Cat Town, meanwhile, has helped at least 1,800 cats find a stable home environment.
"I feel so fortunate to have a partner like Ann Dunn and Cat Town," Rebecca Katz, Director at Oakland Animal Services, said. "It's really resulted in plenty of lifesaving. It's a collaboration, not a conflict."
Watch the video above to see Cat Town in action.