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We Finally Try the Cat Cafe and Are Forced to Admit It's Actually Rather Nice

Local curmudgeon surrenders to the inevitable.


Kit Tea, San Francisco’s first cat café, is finally open, overweeningly precious name and all. At this Gough Street nook, customers can either drink tea in the Japanese tea lounge or drink tea while playing with adorable cats in the cat lounge. Three guesses which room is the more popular.

We've been critical of the concept once or twice in the past. Those stories are from a different writer, but we agreed: It's a silly idea, and $25 an hour for kitty time (reserved in advance) seemed excessive, given that there are 75 million domestic cats in the US and surely most of us already know someone who will let us hang out with their cat for free?

But apparently San Francisco at large doesn’t care, because Kit Tea’s kitty viewing room was booked solid through the weekend. When we stopped by (out of a grudging sense of journalistic due diligence, mind you), four cats were busy doing their thing for an hour while a dozen humans tried to tempt their attention with laser pointers and various dangly toys provided by café staff. There’s a sign on the wall to help you interpret cat body language, and a few house rules about not waking sleeping cats or scaring the bejeezus out of them with flash photography. Everyone seemed clear on the basics.

Okay, it‘s a cute setup. But come on, they’re just cats. Most people see at least one practically every day. Our opinion remained unswayed: Why are we all indulging this? What’s the point? That’s when an employee just happened to mention: “Most of these cats were saved from high-kill shelters.”

Oh. Right.

Kit Tea’s cats are actually all up for adoption, you see. Brought to the café by Give Me Shelter, a San Francisco non-profit that saves shelter cats from being, you know, gassed to death (mostly at shelters outside the Bay Area). In fact, owner Courtney Hatt says they’ve had ten adoptions just the first week. We looked at the cats again. One of them was batting around a stuffed hedgehog. Customers were taking cell phone photos and grinning like kids on Christmas morning. “When a cat goes into a kill shelter, it’s basically on death row,” Hatt explained.

And you know, some people say our heart grew three sizes that day.

Okay, it’s still silly. But it works. And you won’t find happier café customers anywhere in the city. Also, Kit Tea serves Japanese tea, and honestly, it’s pretty good too. We tried the Genmaicha, a blend of green tea and roasted rice. It had a mellow, toasty flavor, just nutty enough to be pleasing. Then we switched it up with Cat Nap (yes, yes, overweeningly cute names, we know), an herbal blend with sweet but mild lavender and rose hints. Just as good.

So there's a cat café now. And one in Oakland too. And you know what? Fine. Go nuts. We give.



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