Updated: Jul 31, 2020
In 2004 on Hawaii’s Lana’i Island Kathy Carroll rescued a “pathetic little kitten” that was malnourished, flea-ridden and had just been hit by a car. With no vets on the island Kathy went above and beyond the call of duty. She caught the ferry to nearby Maui Island to get the little guy treatment and spent the next two months nursing him back to health.
The experience got Kathy thinking about the huge number of feral and stray cats on the island, and she decided to do something about it.
Lana’i is the smallest publicly accessible island in the Hawaiian chain and lies about 15kn west of the larger and more famous resort island of Maui.
It is home to around 3,000 human residents, and by some estimations, just as many or more cats – virtually all of them unowned and running feral across the island.
Kathy’s first plan was to run a “catch, desex and release” program, recruiting a small team of volunteers to help her catch cats and shelter them in a horse stable until she could bring a veterinary team from Maui to do the operations.
But her project took a massive change in direction in 2006 when conservationists discovered the breeding ground of Hawaiian Petrels on Lanaí. These birds are endangered, and their eggs are a favourite target of feral cats.
So instead of “catch, desex and release”, Kathy began to catch, desex and shelter the feral cats being trapped across the island, homing them on a 1 ½ hectare open range scattered with shelters, baskets and kitty hidey holes.
The scope of Kathy’s project has grown massively in the years since she founded the sanctuary in 2006.
Her open door policy, which means any cat found on the island will be taken in, given a name, microchipped, vaccinated and desexed before being given the run of the property with the other four-legged ~ sanctuary guests, has seen the sanctuary’s feline population grow to over 600.
The best part though, is that the sanctuary is open to the public, and you can visit to spend the day cuddling and playing with as many cats as you can manage.
Visitors are often met at the gate by cats eager for cuddles and treats, and up to 12,000 visitors a year make their way to this cat-lover heaven.
And if you fall in love with a particular furball while you’re there, they’ll waive all adoption fees (although you do have to pay for their transport to your home – wherever that may be).
While the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary is currently closed due to the pandemic (and even if it wasn’t, we couldn’t get there anyway), but it’s definitely a place to put on your wish list if you’re a cat lover!