We Get a Preview of San Francisco’s First Cat Cafe

Six cats entertain about 50 humans at a gala for KitTea, a project nearly two years in the making.


San Francisco is on the verge of having its first cat cafe.

On Thursday night at KitTea, six cats up for adoption entertained numerous guests alongside Courtney Hatt and her fellow founders as well as people from the rescue group Give Me Shelter.

KitTea co-founder Courtney Hatt pets Lucca.

KitTea spokeswoman Hannah Simon said the cafe founders hope to open the doors on Monday, June 8, although the date is not 100 percent certain. She said KitTea will announce when an online reservation system will be available.

KitTea is divided into two sections, including one where humans can purchase tea, and another room where people can interact with cats up for adoption. Give Me Shelter is responsible for selecting the cats available for adoption and will also provide volunteer staff.

Hannah Simon plays with Simba.

The walls of the cat area are bare, but KitTea founders said they will soon hold walkways for cats who like high places; they said the space was designed with the help of Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and co-author of the book Catification.

Simba follows a wand toy.

Give Me Shelter has yet to determine the optimum number of cats to keep at KitTea, but Lisa Quattrini, a board member of the group, said it will probably be between 10 and 15.

Daphne Phillips holds Lucca.

The cafe holds a space in the Hayes Valley neighborhood — about a 15-minute walk from Catster HQ in San Francisco’s Mission District. Give Me Shelter had six cats on hand Thursday night, including Lucca (a male gray-and-white longhair), Bleu (a white male shorthair), Simba (a male white-and-orange shorthair), Brittney (a female tabby/tortie hybrid), Sasha (a female gray shorthair), and a black cat whose name was Lila — until a rescuer discovered during the event that she, in fact, is a he. His name is now Dexter.

Lucca, Simba, and Brittney roamed the floor and were exceedingly social. The other cats received love from cages in a back room.

Daphne Phillips says hi to Bleu.

The cats were brought up Thursday from the high-kill Devore shelter in San Bernardino County, said Maria Conlon, a board member of Give Me Shelter.

Lucca (above) and Brittney (below) enjoy the attention.

The cafe project has been nearly two years in the making. After initial planning, KitTea raised $50,000 in early 2014. Give Me Shelter and the Blue Buffalo Company later received a $150,000 grant from the Petco Foundation to build out the cat-adoption space in the cafe and provide supplies including cat furniture, toys, litter, and food, according to Simon.

“Who are you?” asked a dog on the sidewalk. “I could ask you the same question,” replied Brittney.

Other members of the KitTea founding team include Lisa Tsubouchi (who made the teacups for KitTea), Benjamin Stingle, Oli Oldaker, and David Braginsky.

Co-founder Lisa Tsubouchi shows one of her teacups.


KitTea’s opening was behind its original schedule mostly because of the costly San Francisco commercial real estate market.

Lucca, meet Cat Dandy Keith Bowers.

“Finding the space to begin with was pretty tough,” said Simon. “We were looking for a place that was in a good, walkable neighborhood. There were a few options in neighborhoods like the Mission, Richmond District, or Sunset, but we wanted the location to be central to public transportation for people coming in from out of town.”

Sean Calen Blake painted this Buddhist-themed image of a meditating cat in the KitTea entryway.

The group found a location in Hayes Valley, which Simon describes as “one of our favorite neighborhoods in the city.”

KitTea’s space, she said, “has big windows to let in the light for kitties and allow people walking by to peek in and see what the cats are up to.”

Check Catster for updates on the opening date and other goings-on at KitTea.

About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster.

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