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The world is, undeniably, a stressful place right now. In the words of a famed anonymous account, “everything happens so much.” As we stretch into the 18th month of March 2020, there’s no better respite from the perils of the world than being buried under a pile of kittens. Welcome to the Tiny Beans Kitten Lounge, a cat café pop up that promises an impossible amount of cute in your life.
Home to around 20 adoptable kittens, Tiny Beans is an offshoot of CatCafe Lounge, the only non-profit cat café in the LA area. The kitten-centered pop up is running until October 31 on the imminently Instagrammable Abbot Kinney boulevard in Venice, CA. For $35 you get an hour of unadulterated kitten time, which is enough to cure the world’s woes (at least temporarily).
Like most cat cafés, all the inhabitants of Tiny Beans are available to adopt, and the majority of these kittens come from community fosters via the Stray Cat Alliance’s “Safe at Home” program, which prevents the bottle babies from ever stepping paw in a shelter.
The timing of this pop up is very specifically aimed at helping with the summer boom in cat births. “Tens of thousands of kittens are born in the LA area between spring and fall,” says CatCafe founder Kristi Labrenz, and the vast majority are destined to be euthanized or end up as one of the three million street cats in LA county. Tiny Beans is hoping to home 100 of the kittens during the three-month stretch the pop up is open. And its enviable Venice location comes thanks to fundraising and the help of an animal-loving landlord.
The kittens themselves are all around three to four months old, and ready to adopt — they’re fixed, vaccinated, and microchipped. They’re also at the age where the amount of socialization they receive playing with people and other cats all day is incredibly beneficial. Cristin Tamburo, our resident cat behaviorist and a consultant for CatCafe, explained that more simulation at this age leads to a well-rounded adult cat. The animals get to meet and play with people and other cats, and get used to noises, all of which are important for them as they get older. Plus, if you’re visiting with the expressed plan of adopting, it’s possible to get the visiting fee waived courtesy of Dr Elsey’s (who make excellent cat litter).
As with almost everything, Covid-19 has changed the way that cat cafés around the country operate. Tiny Beans is regularly deep cleaned, and both visitors and workers are required to remain masked for their entire visit. The larger CatCafe location also has an entirely outdoors “catio” so you can spend time with the cats but still have active airflow around you. If you aren’t ready to visit in person, but want to help CatCafe’s mission, you can donate directly to the charity, or buy them something from their Amazon wishlist — 20 kittens go through a lot of toys and scratchers.
For folks not in LA (or can’t make the pop-up event in Venice), there are cat cafés scattered all over the USA — most of which could use your help more than ever due to lockdown. But despite the existence of more than 100 cat cafés nationally, the concept itself is a recent import. Cat cafés as we know them began in Taiwan, but exploded in popularity in Japan, where they were seen as a way to spend time with animals who you might not be able to have otherwise. Like how some schools have therapy dogs to help stressed out students cramming for exams, spending an hour or two in the company of cats can do wonders for your stress levels. Cat cafés on this side of the world tend to focus more on adoption than purely temporary companionship, but that doesn’t mean you can only do one or the other.
In the USA, cat cafés first appeared in California, which has remained a stronghold for these feline funhouses. Despite strict regulations that make it difficult to combine the food part of the cat café with the cat part of the cat café, there are now around 13 scattered across the state. The oldest of these is Cat Town Oakland, which was founded in 2014 — narrowly beating KitTea in San Francisco which was founded earlier, but was delayed from opening by regulatory requirements.
It’s hard to get an exact count of how many cat cafés exist in the golden state, due to it being difficult to run a small business, as well the existential questions about what actually counts as a “cat café” (though The Neighbor’s Cat list seems to be pretty on top of things). Compounding this complication is that some cafés have unsure futures, like the mobile Moon Cat Café that brought kitties and coffee all over LA county. But if you’re looking for other cat cafés to visit in California, here are some others to check out:
Cat Town Cafe, Oakland, The Purrmaid Café & Adoption Center in Ventura County, and Mini Cat Town in San Jose are all non-profit organizations, like CatCafe Lounge and Tiny Beans. This is important if you want to be sure that as much of your money as possible goes directly to supporting the cats. As Labrenz explained with Cat Cafe, “every penny goes to new implementations to help cats, and keep current locations running.”
If you want the most Instagrammable trip to a cat café, then Crumb and Whiskers LA is the way to go. With a plant wall, neon signs, and the occasional famous guest, it’s definitely the most glamorous option. Feline Good Social Club in Long Beach offers “Paint and Purrs” fundraiser events, where you can make a painting while hanging out with the kitties. If you’ve ever been to a sip-and-paint evening, you’ve got an idea of what you’re in for — but with the money going to a good cause (and a lot more fluff stuck to your painting at the end).
Elsewhere in CA? Here are a few more up-and-running cat cafés:
Tim Barribeau is a freelance writer, editor, cat dad, and “help your boyfriend buy a suit that actually fits for once” consultant. He was previously the Style and Pets editor at Wirecutter, and has bylines at a bunch of publications that don't exist anymore (and a couple that still do).