Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky have a plan. It’s a glorious plan: imagine going to a tea house where up to ten cats roam around, mingling with the guests and providing some much-needed animal therapy to cat lovers, people who can’t have pets at home and those who just want a slightly off-beat experience. KitTea, proposed for San Francisco, will be offering homeless cats a forever home, and creating a “retreat where cats and people can hang out to the benefit of both.” Sign me up and pass the oolong.
Cat cafes have long been a trend in Japan, where many leases are highly restrictive and don’t allow pets. Japanese patrons can drink tea and other beverages, eat snacks and socialize with friendly cats who can choose to take a break when they get tired of human interactions or they just want a nap. Hatt and Braginsky were inspired by the idea of creating a space for socialization for both people and cats in the Bay Area, a locale where it sometimes seems hard to surprise people when it comes to creative and interesting venues.
They’re not just about opening a gimmicky teahouse in a city with a growing number of teahouses, though. They also have a commitment to helping homeless cats find a space to call home for life — and that’s when the idea of a shelter cat-oriented cat cafe was born. Working under guidelines from the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and with advice from veterinarians and animal behaviorists, they’re working to establish a place that acts as a haven for the cats who will be calling it home.
Since the United States has a very active animal welfare and activism community, especially when it comes to cat lovers, it’s no surprise that they’ve published their detailed guidelines for the welfare of the cats and stressed that the happiness and health of the cats comes first. There will be a felines only room for cats who need a break, along with play areas so cats can get lots of environmental enrichment from toys and scratching posts. The cafe owners are committed to making sure escape artists are secured, and to providing their four-legged employees with ample benefits. The focus on keeping the environment uncrowded and calm for the cats as well as the people is one reason why they’ll be recommending reservations.
Currently, Hatt and Braginsky are seeking a location for the cat cafe and working on permits, as well as partnering with a local shelter to start identifying candidates for KitTea. They’re looking for cats who are socialized and comfortable alongside other cats as well as people, who deserve a second chance at life instead of a sentence to life in a cage. While most Bay Area shelters work very hard to avoid euthanizing healthy and placeable animals, some spend a long time waiting for placements, especially in the case of older cats — KitTea may just provide a chance to get out of the shelter environment before they start developing depression, behavioral problems and other issues that might force shelter employees to classify them as unadoptable.
The estimated opening date isn’t until summer 2014, but shelter cats can use some love and affection any time. If you need to get some kitty cuddles in, contact your local animal shelter to see if they need volunteers for cat socialization and play; it can be a great way to help shelter animals and spend time with cats if your lease, housemates, or busy lifestyle doesn’t allow you to adopt a friend of your own.
Photo credit: Rie H..