Cat Town Café in Oakland, California

Cat Town Café in Oakland, California, opens. A collaboration between Cat Town and the Cat Man of West Oakland, the cafe helps shelter cats find homes.
By Denise LeBeau

It was a hardscrabble start for Marble. When the sweet cat was rescued from a hoarding situation by Oakland Animal Services (OAS), he had an untreated eye injury and the municipal shelter didn’t have the resources to perform any diagnostics. That meant his future could have been murky; he could have easily become a statistic because 9,000 animals die in U.S. shelters every day. However, thanks to Cat Town in Oakland, California, a group dedicated to helping the most at-risk cats at OAS, Marble’s destiny turned from doomed to down-to-be-adopted. And their latest endeavor, a cat café, will mean even more cats like him will leave the shelter alive.

Progressive solutions for shelter cats

Marble the cat was stressed at the shelterCat Town was founded by an insider: Ann Dunn, a former OAS volunteer, saw a need and decided to form an organization to address it. Now she works closely with OAS to take their cats, especially the ones with issues, and find homes for them. As the former volunteer adoption counselor at OAS, she knows firsthand that the shelter has limited resources. “The cats come into the shelter stressed, and it’s not the shelter’s fault,” says Ann. “Many cats don’t do well in the shelter environment.” In addition to cats with medical needs and senior cats, Cat Town takes a range of cats with behavior challenges. Their work has saved over 500 lives.

Gary Hendel, the director of Oakland Animal Services, says, “We have a number of rescue options for stray dogs in Oakland, but cats are increasingly a problem for us, particularly with ‘kitty season’ coming up. I’ve worked in shelters from coast to coast, and I can honestly say that the job Ann has done for us here in Oakland is unprecedented. Her effort to save hundreds and hundreds of our cats is even more impressive when you consider that many of them are special-needs animals.”

As Ann is eager to maximize Cat Town’s reach, the organization is a No More Homeless Pets Network partner. The No More Homeless Pets Network is a program of Best Friends Animal Society focused on building relationships and working with other rescue organizations and municipal shelters across the country to end the killing of dogs and cats in our nation’s shelters. Ann reached out to her region’s specialist, Lezlie Sage, for help in garnering support for their latest ingenious idea.

Oakland's Cat Town Café

Marble the cat now chills at homeLezlie was thrilled to support Cat Town’s next big thing: a cat café. She sent out a member message to Best Friends supporters in the surrounding area. The Cat Town Café is a collaboration between Cat Town and the Cat Man of West Oakland, a local musician who is dedicated to adopting out more confident cats. “The member message got us a lot of great feedback and donations,” says Ann.

"Cat Town does remarkable work to save an underserved population of cats,” says Lezlie. “The group is a shining example of the difference one person's vision can make, and they are taking really creative measures to ensure that even more lives will be saved.”

The Cat Town Café, which is anticipated to open in summer/fall 2014, will feature adoptable cats from OAS in a cool coffee house setting. So while the cats can find forever homes, folks can enjoy a relaxing respite from the daily grind with a feline they could call their own. But don’t look for Marble on the menu; he’s already chilling with his new family.

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Photos courtesy of Ann Dunn