When clients travel, they often miss their beloved pets. Enter Lanai Cat Sanctuary, a warm and fuzzy place that scratches the itch for meaningful animal interactions.
But the sanctuary provides its guests with more than just a chance to lap up some kitty cuddles. By harboring and caring for hundreds of stray cats, it simultaneously protects the island’s endangered ground-nesting birds from wild, free-roaming felines.
“We offer an authentic experience that appeals to visitors who are looking to get away from the commercialized landscape,” said Keoni Vaughn, executive director of Lanai Cat Sanctuary. “Cats are one of America’s most popular pets, and for those who love them, we offer an experience like no other.
The sanctuary, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is located about a quarter of a mile from the Lanai airport. It’s a 30-minute shuttle ride from the island’s boat harbor, making it easy to reach for travelers arriving by ferry.
As clients enter the sanctuary, dozens of cats serve as a greeting committee, welcoming guests with rubs and purrs. Meanwhile, other felines romp and ramble around the attraction’s fenced-in 3.5 acres.
When the nimble critters aren’t playing with guests, they’re exploring their lush environment, from tree branches, benches and baskets to perches, cubbies and chairs.
It’s a win-win arrangement, as cat-centric clients help to socialize the creatures while delighting in their antics and affection.
“Our sanctuary is peaceful, where anyone can come to relax, enjoy a tour and be a part of our mission work,” Vaughn said.
Some clients bring picnic lunches to the sanctuary, and others show up with toys and treats for the tabbies. In addition, the space can host special occasion gatherings, from weddings and birthdays to “cat-chelorette” parties.
If clients fall head over heels for one of the four-legged residents during their sanctuary sojourn, they can adopt it and take it home. If that’s not feasible, they can sponsor it long-distance for $30 per month, which earns them a certificate and periodic photo updates on their adoptee.
The sanctuary drew 800 visitors in 2014, the year when Vaughn came onboard. In 2019, that number has grown to nearly 14,000, which is remarkable, given its location on a tiny island with a population of just 3,000 people.
What’s more, the sanctuary frequently tops TripAdvisor’s list of favorite Lanai attractions.
Admission is free, but donations are strongly recommended, since the facility relies on visitor generosity to fund necessities such as cat food and visits from an Oahu-based veterinarian.
The sanctuary recently expanded to include three new enclosures, which have increased the capacity to 1,000 cats. It’s currently working to raise money to help pay for the installation of electricity, internet service and kitty cams, among other upgrades.
“We want our visitors to leave with long-lasting happiness and a vacation memory of a lifetime,” Vaughn said. “We also want to instill them with a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of life.”
Lanai Cat Sanctuary