The first of its kind cat café and adoption center based in Oakland is expanding with the help of a $162,500 grant from a foundation aimed at saving animals' lives, foundation officials said.
The grant will allow Cat Town Café at 29th Street and Broadway to grow to 1,500 square feet and save the lives of cats that won't do well in its current adoption space, such as noise-sensitive cats.
The grant is through Maddie's Fund, a family foundation started by husband and wife Dave and Cheryl Duffield, who were inspired by their late Miniature Schnauzer Maddie.
Cat Town Café founder and Oakland resident Ann Dunn said her mission with the café is and has been to reduce the number of cats euthanized by giving them a place where they can feel safe and start socializing again.
Dunn said cats in cages in animal shelters can be aggressive or shut down entirely, but if they feel safe they can socialize again and be adopted.
Dunn and her staff members work together with Oakland Animal Services to take what appear to be unadoptable cats and help them become adoptable.
The work being done at Cat Town Café has reduced the cat euthanasia rate at the Oakland animal shelter from 42 percent to 15 percent, Dunn said.
Volunteer coordinator Jay Ruiz said the expansion will help staff members increase the number of cats they help on any given day to about 100 from about 75, which includes the roughly 60 cats in foster homes.
Ruiz said as many as 30 or 40 cats could be housed daily at the café once construction is complete, which is expected to be in May. He said that should reduce the euthanasia rate at the shelter even further.
University of California at Berkeley student Luis Cortez, 20, said he came in to find a companion and was surprised at the vibrancy of the café, compared with a shelter. He said cats' lives are undervalued and the expansion is a great idea.
"I think that it's extremely fantastic," he said.
Of the $162,500, $62,500 is going to construction costs, $60,000 to personnel and $40,000 to veterinary bills, according to Dunn.
Three to five cats on average are adopted each week. Even though Dunn, her staff and the roughly 250 volunteers have been successful, she said she's not looking to open another café.
"There's more we'd like to do to solve the problem," Dunn said. One of those things is to "help others replicate our model," she said.
If anyone wants to help, the café will need more volunteers with the expansion. Café staff members hold monthly information sessions for the public to learn about Cat Town.
Following the information session, people who are interested can sign up for training. A variety of work is available from outreach to administrative work to transportation.