Meet The Lady Behind San Francisco's First Cat Café

Whether you love them or loathe them, we can all agree that cats run the Internet. So, when we heard that San Francisco was getting its very own kitty café — a first in North America — we lost our damn minds.
Hot on the heels of Oakland's own Cat Cafe, KitTea is the brainchild of tech-world vets Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky, and has generated an insane amount of buzz when it was first announced as a crowdfunding project earlier this year. Now, every cat lover's dream is set to become reality with the launch of a zen, tea-serving venue in the heart of Hayes Valley. To be clear, this won't be a space where you can enjoy a cup of Earl Grey and a scone with your beloved pet. Rather, it's a place where kittens from local rescue shelters can hang out, curl up, and possibly get adopted — and a place where customers can bond over how adorable their new fur-friends are.
Advertisement
Excited to hear more about our new home-away-from-home, we ventured to Hatt's Nopa digs armed with tons of questions about her exciting new endeavor. We also got to tour her colorful home and meet a few of her cozy companions. Get excited — an incredible amount of cute overload is coming your way.
1 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Tell us a little bit more about KitTea and the concept behind it.
"KitTea is part zen Japanese tea house and part cat and human oasis. It will be a place of relaxation and a fun new socializing experience for both cats and people in the community. All of the cats under our care will be available for adoption through our partnered cat rescue Give Me Shelter — meaning you have the option to give a cat you fall in love with a forever home."

Okay, let's be real. Would you consider yourself a crazy cat lady?
"Crazy? Yes. Cat? No. Lady? Yes, as far as I can tell."
2 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
What was your biggest motivation to open a cat café?
"Rescuing cats, and bringing people together. When was the last time you made a new friend while sipping on coffee at a café without cats? My hope is that people will get to engage with not only the cats, but also each other, since cute cats make for a great icebreaker. "

Why was it so important to you to incorporate the adoption element?
"The main mission behind KitTea is to find cats forever homes. KitTea is the marketing vehicle for these cats who would otherwise be at a city shelter — or far worse, on death row in a Central Valley shelter."
Advertisement
3 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
You guys have definitely created buzz around town. What were some early efforts that helped spread the word?
"A lot of luck! I didn't anticipate as much buzz as it has received; it really could have gone either way. One thing we worked hard on was creating an online community of cat enthusiasts. Our Facebook and Twitter are what really helped get the word out. However, to no one's surprise, cats are very easy to market on the Internet."

Will KitTea serve food, or just tea? And, tell us more about these awesome custom mugs.
"Yes! The majority of our food will be curated to pair with our teas. All of our food will be provided from off-site local vendors to avoid the risk of fire. And, our mugs are being individually hand thrown by the talented Lisa Tsubouchi."
4 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
What can we expect KitTea to look like? Give us a rundown of the space.
"Zen, beautiful, and fun. Every detail and small touch in the space is being well thought-out to provide the best possible experience for the interaction between cats and humans. Expect a modern, calming, playful space filled with clever cat-minded integrations. Simply put, it will feel like you walked straight into a cat-alog (laughs)."
5 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
How do you feel about other cat cafés slated to open in the Bay?
I couldn't expect that KitTea would be the only cat café. Once we received a generous amount of buzz in January, it was clear that this is a concept many others are interested in pursuing.

How will yours be different?
We are creating a space that really tailors to the needs of cats and people equally, so we are super excited to reveal many of our fun and comforting ideas we have in the works for our guests. Hint: there will be chair massages, kitten days, and crafting with cats. Okay, my lips are sealed until soon!
6 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
These two adorable kittens are also up for adoption — tell us about them!
"They are a brother and sister, and they were found in Glen Park covered in fleas and as skinny as one could imagine. Luckily, they were young enough to have acclimated seamlessly and are becoming cuddly, playful, and very loving. They will be available for adoption within the next month."
7 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Who are some cat ladies you look up to?
"Koko the Gorilla and Jane Goodall. I'm not so sure Jane has a cat, but she seems to love all animals, and I look up to her — always have."
Advertisement
8 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Do you feel you redefine the cat-lady stereotype?
"I don’t know if I necessarily 'redefine' the stereotype per se — I like to wave my Crazy Cat Lady flag high. Though, to be accurate, I am more of a crazy animal lady. I love all animals, even spiders, so it would be unfair to limit myself to just one species."
9 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
What’s the zaniest cat item someone has gifted you?
"Those typically come from my mom. She most recently gifted me a spice rack from hell. Granted, it's vintage, so the paint job is rather tarnished, but the cats look demonic and scheming."
10 of 17
11 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
What are some of the challenges you face bringing a cat café to S.F.?
"People in the neighborhood who might oppose it are tough. Also, expensive San Francisco rents and having all eyes on us throughout the process."

What are some of the more rewarding moments?
"Meeting awesome people! Hands down that is the best part. I feel as though this is such a community project and effort, it has really solidified San Francisco as my home and my people."
12 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Tell us more about your cats Sophie, Shadow, and Bindi. How did you find them?
"Sophie (top) is my eldest, and the protector of the group. I adopted her in Los Angeles when I was 19 years old. She was found as one of several feral cats/kittens living in the old Ambassador Hotel, which had been in decline and abandoned since Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in front of it in 1968. Shadow (bottom) came from the city shelter in Santa Monica. It wasn't even my intention to adopt a cat; I was there with a friend. But, after seeing the poor conditions and that she was in urgent need of a home, I snatched her up. She is the poster cat for KitTea. The moment I brought her home, she was purring. In fact, she will purr if you so much as look at her, or talk to another cat. She is a total love! Bindi (middle) came from the SFSPCA. She is hilarious, spastic, and cuddly all in one. Not to mention, she's the most spoiled of the three — she knows how to manipulate and work it!"
Advertisement
13 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Bindi and Courtney cuddle up.
14 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Up close and personal.
15 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
How important is it for your potential employees to be "cat people"?
"Much like cats themselves, I love to convert 'non-cat people' into 'cat people.' So, I suppose it isn't all that important, but if you are working in the tea space, you will at least need to show a real interest and openness to the idea of being a cat person."
16 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
Do you plan on adopting any more cats?
"I can handle fostering kittens, but more resident cats in a one-bedroom is probably out of the question. We all have to set some limits."
17 of 17
Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
"Be patient and kind to yourself. Not every project is going to succeed, and that is okay. We don't even know what we're doing on this planet, so there's no reason to put meaningless meaning into something you think will give you meaning. Does that make sense?"
Advertisement

More from San Francisco

Watch

R29 Original Series