Though there’s a boundary surrounding the 25,000-square-foot property, there are 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 all the human attention they could ever want.
“I call it the ‘Furr Seasons,’” executive director Keoni Vaughn told 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 a few hours every day, and it has become a tourist destination in its own right. For humans with an affinity for felines, it’s worth a trip to Lanai in and of itself.
Vaughn says 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 with the cats for a day. “He even walked from the airport to the sanctuary,” Vaughn said.
Visitors can even adopt a cat or take one into foster care, and the sanctuary helps to facilitate adoptions for Hawaii locals and out-of-state visitors alike. Even if you can’t 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 its entire life in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is the perfect place for cats in need of a home, but it also serves a second invaluable purpose on the island: protecting endangered indigenous bird populations.
“We started on the premise of saving our native birds on the island,” Vaughn explained. “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 can sponsor a cat from afar by making a donation to help the nonprofit.
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