In April of 2011 to celebrate her birthday, Christine Hubbard decided to do some good in her community and go start volunteering at her local shelter. She didn’t realize how much that small decision was going to change her life.

“I was working with all the adoptable friendly cats. From time to time I would see cats come in traps, and when I found out what their fate was, I knew I had to help them. Since that day I have been working to improve the lives of feral cats.”

A feral cat is a domesticated animal that avoids human contact, living freely in the wild. Since volunteering, Hubbard has been working to change their lives.

black and white cat gazing up

One of the cats at the Cat and Craft Coffee shop gazes up from their nap on a Monday afternoon. Isaac Figueroa/Impact

Her goal is to one day have all shelters stop the euthanization of feral cats. Hubbard aspired to share her story in hopes that it will help spread her vision to save the felines. From this passion developed the Love Your Feral Felines (LYFF) organization.

Hubbard wanted her organization LYFF to focus on the process of Trap Neuter Release (TNR) for feral cats. But that wasn’t enough. She also wanted to save the cats that were already in shelters.

In July of 2015 San Diego animal shelters acknowledged that they will no longer be allowed to euthanize any healthy or treatable animal that enters their shelters. However, that did not include the feral cats in the shelters.

Hubbard took action by partnering with the shelters to instead, put those feral cats to work. Rather than euthanization, LYFF takes the felines and integrates them into their Barn Cat Program (BCP), where the feral cats are placed into barns to help control the rodent population.

Cats that are placed into the BCP fall under three main categories:

  •  Cats whose litter box habits are not consistent enough to be inside-only cats and/or who have lived or spent time outside per their previous owner.
  •  Cats who were found as strays and who may be too independent to appreciate living in a house.
  •  Cats who are shy/fearful of people and prefer the company of other cats and animals.

After creating the BCP, Hubbard knew that she wanted to develop LYFF further in order to save as many cats as possible. She decided that she wanted to have an adoption program. But she realized that she could not take on this task alone so she employed the help of Melissa Dunaj.

Dunaj had just quit working at her local animal shelter when Hubbard told her that she wanted to start an adoption program for social cats and wanted Dunaj to head the program.

The plan was for Hubbard to handle the BCP and TNR programs while Dunaj handled all the new incoming social cats and to get them ready for adoption. But the cats had to get all the necessary shots and vaccinations so that they would be cleared to be adopted out to their future homes.

To do that, it would be a high cost for LYFF; however, Dunaj was previously a vet tech thus allowing her to give the cats the vaccines they needed from her own home. Then they would take the cats to the vet hospital to get the clear for adoption.

In the fall of 2016, Caroline and Andrew Vaught came to California from Atlanta looking for something new.

“We both were intentional about coming to California to start something that we felt was more rewarding for us and could give back to the community,” Caroline said.

Her husband, Andrew, had started Stay Roasted, a coffee distribution company, so they were already involved in the coffee industry. Caroline figured they would open a café of some sort but didn’t expect they would open a cat café. But after a trip to Bali and visiting cat cafés, they were inspired with the idea.

cafe area with cups water lids and napkins

An area on a typical afternoon at Cat and Craft where you can get items such as napkins, lids, plates, and water cups. Isaac Figueroa/Impact

In their previous town they had volunteered with their local community cat TNR program, and they began to look for something similar in San Diego which brought them to LYFF. They started out as a foster home for LYFF but desired to be more involved.

Hubbard met with Caroline and Andrew in order to discuss the options for beginning a cat café.

In June of 2017, the Vaughts began to look for a building that would eventually become Cat & Craft.

When they finally found their place in Vista, they immediately started construction. After almost a year of hard work Cat & Craft opened on January 12. Today Cat & Craft and LYFF are thriving as a team aiming to re-home 500 felines by the end of the year.