Kathy Carroll talks with humor about her nickname as the “cat lady” on Lanai. If that nickname makes you think of an old-lady recluse with a dozen cats, then you have the wrong impression. Kathy is personable, talkative, and passionate… and you are way way low on the number of cats.
Kathy is the President of the Lana’i Animal Rescue Center and during my visit to Lanai, I had the opportunity to “volunteer” at the center. The Lana’i Animal Rescue Center is a no-kill shelter which is the home to 310 cats. I have a hard time saying that I was volunteering instead of visiting but one of the biggest needs that the shelter has is for people to simply come and pet cats.
These cats were found all over the island as abandoned or feral cats. Spending time with people helps re-socialize these cats so that they might be able to be adopted. If you just happen to fall in love with one of these cats and want to take one home the shelter can help with arrangements but if you just have an hour to pet cats, you will be welcome. By welcome I mean cats rubbing up against your leg or jumping in your lap welcome.
- The biggest surprise for me was probably the smell… there wasn’t any. Regular volunteers keep what might be one of the world’s largest litter box that surrounds the compound clean. The lack of smell and the wonderful condition of these cats is a tribute to their hard work. The entire compound (14,000 square foot) is open-air which no doubt helps but also seems to help with the health of the cats according to the vets who have visited the shelter.
- The center is also surprisingly calm. You would think that having so many cats in one place might lead to cat fights but other than the occasional rivalry for a friendly lap, the cats seem to get along.
- The number of cats that my guides Amanda Shimokawa and Kathy knew by name was stunning but speaks to the love that has been lavished on these “Hawaiian Lions”.
- You know you are a cat person if you have ever picked the destination of your vacation around the opportunity to volunteer at a no-kill cat animal rescue shelter. While I can’t imagine that someone would plan their vacation around petting cats, people apparently do.
Kathy came to the island to escape the Chicago winters and to support her husband’s career change from medical illustrator to fine artist, not to build a kitty hotel. But after she arrived she discovered that Lanai, and many of the other Hawaiian Islands, had a cat problem. In the plantation days, people were often not allowed to own pets but would feed local cats. Since they did not own the cats, they would not spay or neuter them. It does not take to many cats tomcatting about before you get quite a lot of cats. Two uncontrolled breeding cats, plus all their offspring can add up to 12,680 cats in just 5 years.
The shelter is a volunteer organization supported by a popular Saturday morning swap meet and by generous donors. Some cat lovers who can’t take a cat home adopt a cat in place. I was introduced to a very happy kitty named Hulopoe (named after the local beach) who is supported by a child named Tom in New Jersey for $20 a month. Tom has written a backstory for Hulopoe and even sends birthday gifts.
The Four Seasons on Lanai includes the shelter as part of their program for guests to be able to volunteer during their visit. If you would like to support the shelter or just pet cats contact them via LanaiAnimcalRescue.org.
Volunteer Matt Glickstein wrote the following song about the sanctuary: