The Lanai Cat Sanctuary: A Nirvana for Kitties

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
Lanai, our fourth Hawaiian island visited over many years, startled us for several reasons. For one, the continuous fresh breeze immediately lifted the greasy sweat that we had worn for the entire previous week. The geography itself was so incredibly different from where we had just left, framed by tall Cook pines instead of the expected abundance of palm trees.And then, there are ALL THE KITTIES.

You know that you’ve arrived at one of the most perfect spots on the entire planet when the number one of things to do in Lanai for tourists according to TripAdvisor is to visit a nearby cat sanctuary. There are only 3,000 people living on Lanai and over 400 cats. That ratio (for this introverted cat lover who loves cooler weather) is the kind that makes me want to unpack my bags for good.

Not only did the word paradise roll off my tongue regarding many aspects of the island, but it is so clearly a utopia for all of the cats under the care of the Lanai Cat Sanctuary as well.

There are only 3,000 people living on Lanai and over 400 cats.
Welcome Committee at Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Part of the welcome committee

Lanai Cat Sanctuary - Staring
Lanai Cat Santuary - watching drone
Cat Pose

We were greeted by the lovely founder Kathy Carroll and a benevolent furry contingent who bypassed the food on offer in order to welcome us through the gates. As we cuddled one and then another and another, Kathy, whose generosity of love and spirit is on display with every word spoken, relived the history of the sanctuary (along with several of the cats) with us.Concerned for a growing number of homeless cats which were impacting native bird populations, Kathy began by herding a small group of them and building a temporary enclosure in partnership with a major resort on the island. The eventual move to the 50,000 sq ft outdoor enclosure came with the mandate to provide a place where they all can live without distress.

There is no euthanization. Every cat is spayed or neutered and vaccinated. The sanctuary includes a multitude of different areas for cats to play, hide, or sleep. All surfaces are painted a rust red, and as many as possible are made of recycled crates or other such things that are salvaged. Nothing goes to waste.

Two things surprised us most – one being the remarkable peace among them cats (in our three hours there we saw no fights). Secondly, with all of these animals roaming free, you would never know it for the not unpleasant smell of the place. Large open boxes using pine mulch as litter tend to that.

The “lions”, as they are affectionally called, live large in health and harmony.

The “lions”, as they are affectionally called, live large in health and harmony.

Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Lanai Cat Sanctuary - Portrait

Pet All the Cats


At Your Feet
Lanai Cat Sanctuary - Too Quick
Sleepy Time - Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Cat on Fence - Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Getting Frisky

The friskiest!

Tube Cat

Getting comfortable

Poser Cat - Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Cat tails
As such, the hardest part of our day was bringing ourselves to leave one in order to pet another. And then to tear ourselves away entirely, of course.

how to do it

These “Hawaiian lions” can be found in a beautiful enclosed space very near the airport. In fact, many visitors take day trips from the other islands just to see cats!

You can donate or adopt in kind by visiting their site here. It is also possible to volunteer at the sanctuary, and of course, there are plenty of cats to cuddle and even take home with you if you are able. The Sanctuary will make all arrangements for getting them to your home, the toughest thing for you will be to choose from the many darlings there.

Our trip to Lanai was courtesy of the Lanai Visitor Bureau. All opinions, as always, are our own.

14 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • December 10 2015

    What a fantastic initiative and a wonderful lady. So much thought has gone into the outdoor enclosure not to mention all the love. Great photos guys!

  • December 10 2015

    These pictures brought such big smiles to my face! Love the picture of the cat butt straddling the pipe! Hahaha!

  • December 10 2015

    Being an enormous cat lover myself (and one who has just discovered the delights of cat cafés), I would absolutely adore this place! The gorgeous grey and white one with the beautiful green eyes is my favourite 🙂
    Kiara Gallop recently posted..Getting My Feline Fix at Newcastle’s New Cat Café, Catpawcino

  • December 11 2015

    Beautiful place!
    And took amazing pictures of these cute cats!
    Traveling Rockhopper recently posted..New Zealand – Maori

  • December 13 2015

    OMG YES. This looks like heaven – both for the cats and for cat-lovers. I would go to Lanai JUST to visit this place.
    Amanda recently posted..Holiday Travel: The Coolest Places to Go

    • Wynne
      January 5 2016

      I would, too – pure heaven!

  • December 15 2015

    Oh!!!!!! I have to go here!!! I’m amazed that they don’t fight – we only have two and they fight all the time!! Just gorgeous pictures, too.
    Amanda Kendle recently posted..Review: Scrubba Wash Bag (and lamenting Iceland’s lack of laundromats)

  • December 15 2015

    What gorgeous photos – it’s so lovely to see how relaxed the kitties are. I’m a huge cat lover and this place does sound like absolute heaven!

    We spent some time in animal sanctuaries while we were in Asia last year and are always on the look out for new places to visit! This will have to be added to our list!
    Karianne recently posted..Conflict Kitchen – Food for Thought in Pittsburgh

  • December 16 2015

    Oh my, oh my! So many kitties over there. It’s a dream for a cat lover.
    Linda March recently posted..Red Christmas Dresses

  • December 16 2015

    Love love love these ‘Lions’ so much! Such a beautiful post, made me want to jump right out of my computer screen and land in this paradise!!

  • Wes
    December 27 2015

    Great photos! That would be my paradise. Did you find that most of them were comfortable around people?

  • Wynne
    January 5 2016

    Feline nirvana! And nirvana for me, too. I agree with Amanda (Dangerous Business) – I would go to Lanai just to visit this sanctuary!

  • January 24 2016

    I like this post and I am not a big fan of cats
    Izy berry recently posted..How to Save Money this Spring

  • Beautiful photos of a beautiful place! It is great to see such support for a good cause. Thanks for sharing!

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