HAWAII – Most people visit Hawaii hoping to spend long, lethargic hours on white sand beaches drinking bottomless mai tais.
Cat people, on the other hand, probably have a more cuddly option in mind.
On the small island of Lanai, a little-known slice of feline heaven called the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is currently home to 495 cats. People fly from all over the globe just to hang out with them.
Though there’s a boundary surrounding the 25,000-square-foot property, there are absolutely no cages within the main area of the sanctuary. The cats ― or “Hawaiian Lions,” as the sanctuary calls them ― have large huts and trees to climb on, patches of grass on which to sun themselves and in addition, all the human attention they could ever want.
“I call it the ‘Furr Seasons,’” executive director Keoni Vaughn said to The Huffington Post. “It’s 25,000 square feet of open-aired space for the cats to run around and play in, so they’re just kind of relaxing and chilling.”
The sanctuary is open to the public for just a handful of hours every day, and it has become a tourist destination in its own right. For humans with an unending adoration for felines, it’s worth a trip to Lanai in and of itself.
Vaughn explained that people often travel to the island just to visit the sanctuary. One particularly dedicated man flew all the way from Japan just to hang out and cuddle with the cats for a day. “He even walked from the airport to the sanctuary,” Vaughn stated.
Visitors can even adopt a cat or take one they like into foster care, and the sanctuary helps to facilitate adoptions for Hawaii locals and out-of-state visitors alike. Even if you aren’t able to visit the sanctuary, it has an “adopt in place” program so anyone from anywhere in the world can sponsor a Hawaiian Lion.
If a cat is never adopted, however, it can live out the rest of its natural life in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is the perfect place for cats who are in need of a home, but it also serves a second invaluable purpose on the island: it protects endangered indigenous bird populations.
“We started on the premise of saving our native birds on the island,” Vaughn went on to expound. “We focus on trapping stray and feral cats from bird-sensitive areas and then bring them into the sanctuary, so it’s a win-win for both native birds and the cats.”
Until you get a chance to visit Lanai’s kitty heaven, you may also sponsor a cat from afar by making a donation to help the nonprofit
Take a look at the place for yourself in this great video clip: