A few weeks back we brought you the exciting news that a cat cafe named KitTea is set to open in San Francisco some time in 2014, which would make it the first cat cafe in North America. Exciting news, to be sure! Made even more exciting by the fact that KitTea now finds themselves in the middle of a cat cafe grand prix–challengers to the title of first North American cat cafe have emerged in Montreal and Oakland. Who will be the first to bring the wonders of caffeinated communal cat companionship to our woefully neglected continent?

In Montreal, Café Chat l’Heureux is “very much a social initiative” that will “facilitate the adoption of cats, promote the awareness of animal issues, and hopefully better the lives of customers with calming cat therapy,” according to MTL Blog’s story. They have put together an IndieGoGo campaign to help bring their dream to reality, and with 37 days left have raised 14k CAD of their 40k CAD goal. They claim that the project is “well underway,” and that it is being developed “with the advice of the SPCA, of pet therapists, and veterinarians.”

There is somewhat of a divide amongst the editorial team here at Sprudge as to whether or not a cat cafe is a hygienic endeavour, so it’s good to hear that Café Chat l’Heureux has been working closely with the proper authorities on all “food safety and hygiene” standards. They hope to be open “early summer 2014.”

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Meanwhile, Cat Town is the upstart Oakland challenger to KitTea’s San Francisco ambitions to the North American cat cafe crown. Fittingly, Eater SF reports that Cat Town is a non-profit venture being put together in collaboration with local shelters and local chain Pet Food Express (who will pay their rent and food costs) to create a space “specifically designed to pair visitors with a potential cat to take home for good, from a rotating crew of people-friendly new admissions.” Eater echoes some of our concerns by highlighting that the Cat Town founders “envision dividing their space into two sections: a cat-free cafe with espresso drinks and light bites, and a ‘cat zone,’ equipped with hand-washing stations and a cage-free play area that allows humans to interact with the felines.”

Eater notes that “drinking and petting are traditionally intermingled in the original Japanese cat cafes, but American health codes mean KitTea and Cat Town will have to take a different tack.”  Cat Town has of course started an IndieGoGo campaign of its own, which has 31 days left and has so far raised $13k of its $60k goal. Cat Town is also shooting for a summer 2014 opening.

Since the news first broke about KitTea, SFist has reached out to the founders to hear more about their plans. In the interview, they note that San Francisco’s Food Safety Manager Kenny Wong has been “very helpful and informative of what we’ll need to do to succeed” with the various health code challenges, and that, unsurprisingly, they’ll be “launching a crowdfunding page on crowdtilt.com in the next week or so.” They are looking at spaces in Hayes Valley and hope to open in the “4 to 5 months.”

So there you have it people. 2014 is officially going to be the year of the cat cafe in North America. We have three challengers to the title so far, and they’re all hitching their cat wagons to lesser known crowdfunding platforms. Who will open first? Who will emerge victorious in the race to open North America’s first cat cafe? Stay tuned to Sprudge to find out. You better believe we’re going to keep blogging about this.

Alex Bernson (@AlexBernson) is the Assistant Editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Bernson here

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