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Here Comes KitTea, San Francisco's First Cat Cafe

A cat cafe in Seohyeon, South Korea. [Photo: Chantelle/Flickr]

Japan is ahead of the curve on a lot of things: caretaker robots, vending machines for nearly everything, and yes, cat cafes where humans come to snack, sip tea and play with a "staff" of felines. Now, local duo Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky are planning to open up their very own version of a cat cafe right here in San Francisco. Called KitTea, the new spot would bring cat-lovers their feline fix in a relaxed, zen-like environment, complete with gourmet tea and snacks.

The idea came to Hatt after reading an article about cat cafes, which provided a stark contrast to her experience as a harried coffee-shop patron. She teamed up with software engineer Braginsky to turn dreams for a human and cat oasis into reality, which they hope to do after they find the perfect location (with lots of sunlight and near the Mission or Hayes Valley, most likely) and raise money through a crowdfunding campaign. Once that's in place, they'll design a space that's both people- and cat-friendly (think an eclectic mix of tables, floor seating and couches with a relaxed lounge atmosphere).

They've worked carefully to ensure that KitTea will be safe and enjoyable for both humans and cats, and are working on a set of behavior guidelines (no picking up cats, for instance), as well as talking to the Health Department about how to incorporate food and drinks into the equation. Braginsky says they'll resolve any health-code issues by separating the cat lounge and the food and drink station into two distinct areas, but that patrons can choose to take their snacks and tea into the cat lounge if they like. So far, they know that they'll be sourcing a streamlined menu of organic teas from a local provider, and serving a combination of Asian and American snacks (think mochi and chocolate truffles).

Ideally, they'd like to work with a local pet adoption or rescue organization to allow cafe patrons to adopt cats that they bond with during their visits, but the logistics of that process are still to be figured out. With a lot more to work out, Braginsky is targeting a summer opening date for KitTea, but he stresses that this is not a money-making enterprise. Instead, he sees it as a way to create community around cats and a more thoughtful, contemplative cafe culture.

We'll keep you posted, but avid cat-lovers can follow KitTea's progress on Facebook or on their website.

· All Coming Attractions [~ ESF ~]