Oakland's Cat Cafe Is Cute, Sure. It's Also Saving Hundreds Of Cats' Lives. - NBC Bay Area
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Oakland's Cat Cafe Is Cute, Sure. It's Also Saving Hundreds Of Cats' Lives.

Oakland's Cat Cafe Is Cute, Sure. It's Also Saving Hundreds Of Cats' Lives.

Oakland Animal Services' euthanasia rate has plummeted since Cat Town opened its doors 6 years ago. (Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017)

Ann Dunn will be the first to tell you she's the last one you'd expect to run a cat rescue organization.

Particularly, if you knew her in college.

"I went to school in San Diego and all my friends were going cat rescue and I couldn't have cared less. Couldn't have cared less," Dunn said laughing.

It's funny now because Dunn is the founder of Cat Town, a wildly successful cat rescue non-profit in Oakland.

So, what changed between then and now? Dunn crossed paths with a single, stray kitten, that's what.

"It was this little orange tabby and I say my heart grew three sizes that day," Dunn said. "I was like, 'I'll keep him.'"

That one rescue lead to another and Dunn eventually began to volunteer at Oakland Animal Services. It was there, Dunn saw first hand, that the cats who could handle the caged and noisy shelter environment were easily adopted. But those who couldn't, those who withdrew or became aggressive because of it were considered "unadoptable."

Dunn and a group of fellow volunteers were determined to help those cats.

"Let's focus on the cats that aren't going to make it," Dunn said.

"We see that these cats are adoptable. They just need to be in the right environment, get them out of small cages surrounded by barking dogs."

At first, Cat Town focused on fostering cats in homes but Dunn knew that exposure was a barrier to adoption as well. Getting prospective adopters to visit homes (or the shelter) was often enough of an inconvenience that they would never take that step.

So, 2 years ago, Dunn opened the country's first cat cafe at the corner of 29th Street and Broadway in Oakland. It is a store-front, no-cage, adoption showcase. And Coffee.

The success has been staggering.

Thanks in great part to Cat Town and Dunn's more than two hundred volunteers, Oakland Animal Services' euthanasia rate has dropped from 42 percent in 2011 to 14 percent today.

"I feel so fortunate to have a partner like Ann Dunn and Cat Town," said Rebecca Katz, Director at OAS. "It's really resulted in plenty of lifesaving. It's a collaboration, not a conflict."

Since it's founding, Cat Town has helped close to 1,500 cats.

And they are growing.

Construction is being done at the property next to the cafe, expanding the space available for cats and the people who might want to adopt them.