By Evie Carrick
April 23, 2019
Courtesy of Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Most visitors to Hawaii are happy to pass their days on the beach with a piña colada in hand, but for cat lovers, paradise might look a little different. For these feline devotees the ultimate bliss might be found at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, a spacious shelter on the island of Lanai where 620 cats – mostly feral – roam free in a protected space.

The sanctuary opened in 2009 in an effort to save the feral cats who were going to be trapped and killed after it became apparent they were eating the island’s endangered petrels, a native seabird. Kathy Carroll, the sanctuary’s founder, opened the sanctuary in a vacant horse stall, but today, the sanctuary sits on a half-acre that’s a short walk from the airport. Travelers with long layovers or not much time on Lanai can get their fill of kitty snuggles within minutes of landing on the island.

Courtesy of Lanai Cat Sanctuary

At the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, every cat is given a name, microchipped, and made available for adoption. The Los Angeles Times reports that around 50 cats are adopted and an estimated 11,000 people visit the sanctuary each year.

Courtesy of Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Some travelers come to Lanai on a day trip just to spend time with the cats. The sanctuary’s executive director, Keoni Vaughn, told the Los Angeles Times that he remembers one visitor who “came to the cat sanctuary ... from Japan to spend the day with us — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., five hours, only to fly back to Japan the same day.”

Courtesy of Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Admission to the shelter is free, but the Lanai Cat Sanctuary does accept donations to fund vaccinations, food, and shelter for their growing fur family. They’re also building another large enclosure to better accommodate the growing population of feral felines who are continually being trapped and brought to the sanctuary for protection.

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors to Lanai can also support the shelter’s efforts by visiting Lanai City’s Mike Carroll Gallery where a corner of the gallery is dedicated to the selling of catnip toys, notecards, and T-shirts.

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