Cat lovers pounce at chance of spending time with felines at new Northern California cat cafe

Associated Press

Cat lovers in Northern California are pouncing at the chance of spending time with feline company at a new cat cafe in Oakland.

Cat Town Cafe is giving dozens of visitors a chance to mingle with furry friends while sipping coffee and nibbling on cat-themed cookies.

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The cafe opened last month and has been full since opening day. It was inspired by the cat cafe craze in Japan, where many people live in cramped high-rise apartments that don't allow pets.

But while in Japan making feline friends became popular therapy for lonely or anxious workers, at the Oakland coffee shop the focus is on the cats.

The tuxedo, orange tabby, and Siamese cats napping or stretching in the sun in Cat Town come from a local shelter and are available for adoption.

"Most of them have been at the shelter for four months or more. So as much as this is a super fun experience, it's really a mission-driven project to get the cats out of the shelter and into great homes," said Ann Dunn, founder of Cat Town Oakland, a nonprofit group that helps place cats least likely to be adopted from the Oakland Animal Shelter.

For a $10 donation to the organization, visitors get one hour of kitty company in the cafe, where they can play with felines, get a back or stomach kneading session, and watch them nap. Each person is given a designated time window to make sure there are not too many people at once in the room with cartoon-like murals of cats on the walls.

Cat naps are very popular at the cafe but Christina Souza, who visited the cafe a recent afternoon, didn't seem to mind.

"I think it's fun. It's great. It's exciting. Why not have more venues where cats can let out their fun personalities?" Souza said.

Cat cafes are now open in London, Vienna and Paris and Cat Town founders believe their coffee shop is the first of its kind in the United States. The may change soon as a half dozen new cat cafes are set to open in the U.S. next year, most of them along the West Coast.