What’s better than vacationing in paradise? Paying a visit to purr-adise at Hawaii’s “Fur Seasons” resort, as the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is affectionately called. As People reports, the nonprofit sanctuary provides shelter to about 620 stray cats on the small island of Lanai. (And yes, you can visit, play with, and even adopt any of the adorable residents.)
The felines live on a piece of outdoor, fenced-in property that’s roughly half the size of a football field. They have cubby holes, baskets, and other structures to climb in and on, and according to executive director Keoni Vaughn, they have plenty of space to sprawl out.
“The average person who’s not a crazy cat person thinks, ‘Oh my God, [the sanctuary] has got to be gross and stink'—but it’s the absolute opposite,” Vaughn tells Mental Floss. “The two compliments we get the most are: A) It doesn’t smell, and B) It doesn’t feel like 600 cats.”
Expansions are currently underway, and the sanctuary will someday have the capacity to hold up to 1200 cats at once.
The sanctuary was founded by former nutritionist Kathy Carroll, who set out to tackle the island’s feral cat problem. She began by capturing, neutering, and releasing the cats. However, those plans changed when she learned about the plight of the island’s endangered birds, which are hunted by wild cats. As a win-win solution, she established a sanctuary where the cats would be happy, and the birds (including the ‘Ua’u, or Hawaiian petrel) would be out of harm’s way.
The sanctuary was formally established as a charity in 2009 and now receives about 200 new cats per year (roughly 50 of which are adopted annually). The center also receives about 12,000 visitors each year, which is “almost four times the human population” of Lanai, Vaughn says.
Although most of the cats are feral, about 40 percent of them become socialized, thanks to the steady stream of visitors. When the sanctuary opens its front gate to visitors at 10 a.m. each day, about 40 cats line up to compete for human affection. “It’s like they report to work. They’re conditioned,” Vaughn says. “When the first guests come, they’re meowing and everything because they know they’re going to get treats.”
Although the sanctuary is free to visit, the staff appreciates donations. This goes toward microchipping, spaying, and neutering the cats, as well as flying in a veterinarian from Oahu twice per month. Cat lovers can also support the sanctuary by “sponsoring” a cat, which means they’ll receive monthly updates and photos of one of Lanai’s kitties in exchange for making a monetary donation.
Scroll down to see more pictures of the sanctuary, and for more information about how you can help, check out the organization's website.