The Scoop: The Cat Café has created a delightful space where humans and rescue cats can live in harmony. Since 2015, the San Diego coffee shop has welcomed countless visitors to its feline playpen and helped over 500 cats get adopted. If you’re looking for a socially distant date activity, The Cat Café can be quite a good treat with plenty of playspace where couples can enjoy caffeinated beverages, pastry treats, and furry friends.

The first cat cafés opened in Taiwan in 1998 and sparked curiosity among locals and tourists. Many people pounced on the opportunity to make new furry friends while enjoying a hot cup of coffee. And soon more independently owned cat cafés began cropping up in Asia, Europe, and North America.

In early 2015, The Cat Café gave San Diego a chance to join in the fun. It was the first cat café to open in Southern California and the fifth in the United States. Founder Tony Wang created a cat playpen where visitors can sit and play for hours, and the best part is that all the cats at The Cat Café are available for adoption.

Photo of Tony Wang, Founder of The Cat Café

Tony Wang founded The Cat Café as a hangout for people and rescue cats.

The Cat Café has worked in partnership with The San Diego Humane Society and The Rescue House to facilitate over 500 cat adoptions since its opening.

From the beginning, Tony has made a point to highlight products from local small businesses to help the San Diego community thrive. “Our cats come from a local rescue organization,” Tony said. “It only makes sense for us to source as much product as possible from local small businesses, and that’s what we did.”

Couples can stop by The Cat Café to enjoy a unique experience and bring out their playful side. The coffee shop is a great first date venue because it’s casual, affordable, entertaining — and provides a way to judge if a person is cat parent material.

Some couples continually meet at The Cat Café to hang out with their favorite felines, and maybe participate in cat yoga classes. The coffee shop also frequently sees people celebrating birthdays, engagements, or other special occasions by adding a new furry member to their family. Whether you’re there for short-term cuddles or long-term connections, you can make special memories with a cat-loving partner at The Cat Café.

Grab a Drink & Hang Out With Adoptable Cats

When you walk into The Cat Café, you won’t see any cats. The Cat Café keeps its coffee shop separate from its cat playpen for health reasons. Customers first order from the menu of hot drinks, iced drinks, and snacks, and then they can enter the playpen where dozens of cats roam free.

Food and drinks are allowed in the playpen, but visitors should take care not to leave their goodies within reach of a curious cat. The Cat Café allows children to visit as long as they behave themselves and are well-supervised in the playpen.

Photo of a cat in the playpen

The Cat Café fosters friendly felines that love to meet people and get into mischief.

Couples can enjoy a quiet date at the coffee shop and playpen. They can sit and talk about the cats while sipping espresso, or they can explore the space and get to know the unique personalities of its felines.

The Cat Café employs cat lovers who are also people lovers. The team goes out of their way to get to know the personalities of the cats and people in the space, and it’s that personal touch that turns a first-time visitor into a regular customer.

“We didn’t want to do things like other coffee shops,” Tony said. “We want the person making your coffee to become someone you’re familiar with instead of just another face. Our employees work hard to make sure they are friendly, efficient, and helpful.”

A few years ago, The Cat Café staff had the privilege of being a wingman for a marriage proposal. A customer reached out saying he wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the playpen, so the staff members rewrote the cat bios to reference the proposal. The couple stopped by on their date, and they made a lifelong memory of getting engaged while surrounded by cats.

After nearly 200 reviews, The Cat Café boasts a 4.9-star rating on Facebook with many cat lovers saying they come here on a regular basis.

“What a great concept!” said Regina B. in a review. “The owner was great filling you in on all of their stories — what a wonderful way to bond with the cats and help them find loving homes.”

“I came into the room, sat down, and instantly had a lap cat laying in my lap,” said Amber H. “I recommend this place to anyone who wants to have a nice stressless afternoon. The staff was phenomenal.”

Plenty of Room for Social Distancing & Unwinding

Like many small businesses, The Cat Café has had to navigate unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coffee shop has managed to adapt to new health guidelines and keep its doors open through multiple waves of coronavirus surges and lockdowns.

“Because we’re an essential business, we’re able to stay open even though we’re in the purple tier,” Tony told us. “We believe we’ll be able to stay open, with modified procedures, even if there’s a general stay-at-home order in San Diego.”

Photo of a couple adopting a cat

Adopting a cat can be a memorable and life-changing date activity.

The Cat Café can offer a quiet spot where people can destress in the company of friendly and adorable cats. Before the pandemic, about 60% of café visitors were from trade shows, conventions, and events. Nowadays, pretty much 100% of visitors are San Diego residents who are looking for a safe way to get out of the house.

Tony said one of the benefits of operating a cat café in the U.S. is that it’s normal for the team to operate within strict health guidelines. The cat playpen has always had hand sanitizer available for customers, and it also provides enough space for people and cats to keep their distance.

“We’ve always limited the number of people in the room with the cats — even before COVID — so it’s not crowded,” Tony explained.

The Cat Café encourages people to relax with some cool cats and enjoy a date, a family outing, or a social meetup away from crowds.

If you want to support The Cat Café during this difficult time, you can go to the online shop to purchase T-shirts, hoodies, blankets, and other brand merchandise. Every little bit helps keep the lights on, the coffee brewing, and the cats frolicking in the playpen.

The Cat Café Entertains Couples in a Playful Atmosphere

Over the last 20 years, cat cafés have become a global sensation because they offer a uniquely fun experience getting to know local cats. It’s the purr-fect pick-me-up for enthusiastic cat people who are meeting up with friends or going on a date.

Since 2015, The Cat Café has brought joy and laughter to cat lovers of all stripes. Its cat playpen has been the setting for countless romantic moments, including one marriage proposal, and hundreds of cats have found their furever homes in the process. Looking to the future, The Cat Café has plans to build on its momentum and continue growing to serve San Diego’s cat community.

“We’ll be celebrating our sixth anniversary in January, and we’ll be moving into a larger space that will allow us to bring more cats in and to hopefully adopt out more animals,” Tony said. “It will also be designed to make the experience more enjoyable for visitors.”