Living in the city has its perks, but one of the most challenging things to do is own a pet while living in a limited space and constantly being on the go. If you're a pet owner or an animal lover, then you already know the joys of having a cat or dog...a furry loved one who is often in a good mood, greets you when you come home, and is loyal and affectionate. There's no replacement for having an animal in one's life.
When I want some quality animal time, I have a few options, the first being to visit friends and family who have pets. When I've exhausted those options, I set my sites on other local places that offer a hands-on animal experience. I love these places because they do good work helping animals find homes and make for an enjoyable visitor experience as well.
Kit Tea Cafe
Kit Tea in Hayes Valley in SF is the perfect place to spend a relaxing hour with cats while sipping tea. The place is divided into three parts - a reception and store, the cafe, and the cat living space - but the large windows between all three make the place bright, airy, and welcoming. I attended a Happy Hour on a Wednesday afternoon in the company of about 7-8 cats and a few staff members. I was the only visitor, lucky me!
Kit Tea's Happy Hours are a great way to experience this cafe at a discounted rate of $15/hr versus the usual $20-25/hr. While the price is a bit steep compared to other options listed here, it's understandable and goes towards running the cafe, including cat upkeep, so I can't complain about that. Happy Hours take place on Thursday afternoons from 3-6 PM. If you can't make that, the cafe also host yoga and movie nights and Saturday cartoon mornings with the cats.
I have to say that I really enjoyed my hour with the cats and can't wait to bring my non-allergic friends and family in for the experience. All in all, Kit Tea is one of my favorite spots in the city to pass an hour or two and meet new animal friends.
Cat Town in Oakland is American's first cat cafe and offers a similar experience enjoying the company of cats in a relaxing cafe environment. My boyfriend and I went on a whim one Caturday morning, making a reservation just a few hours before showing up at the cafe. Parking was plentiful in the area and the price was relatively inexpensive at $10/hr per person for a reserved appointment. You can also choose to pay $5/hr for a walk-in visit if they have spots available.
Cat Town's living space is spacious with a colorful mural on the wall and beautifully decorated with cat-sized furniture. The cats appeared well cared for and we got plenty of entertainment playing with our furry friends. Cat Town is a solid organization dedicated to animal well-being while offering visitors an enjoyable experience and providing this at a low cost - the perfect combination of a good time for me. I would visit very frequently if it were closer to me.
The San Francisco SPCA is a different kind of place than the other two mentioned here. It probably goes without saying that this is the local animal shelter, but it doesn't hold to the stereotype of a dark, grim place with animals in cages. The SF SPCA is actually a beautiful facility with spacious rooms and a staff of kind employees and volunteers. I regularly visit the SF SPCA to view the animals up for adoption and to attend their community events.
Last fall I attended a Friday night happy hour featuring food trucks, music, and even a runway fashion show featuring both human and animal fashion. The SF SPCA hosts lots of these fun events throughout the year including free adoption weekends to increase community awareness of the organization and encourage adoptions.
There are some noticeable differences from the cat cafes though. Unfortunately, it's not always a relaxing experience because animals can be stressed by the new environment. Some animals are off limits to visitors while they adjust. You have to fill out a form with some basic information about yourself before entering an animal's room, but the visit is free. And if you're interested in other animals besides cats, the SPCA offers dogs and small animals (i.e., rabbits and rats) for adoption as well.
If you've been to these places, I'd love to hear about your experience there or how you otherwise get your animal fix.