HONOLULU (KHON2) — The are currently 667 cats at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. They have all been spayed or neutered — and each of them has a name.
While the animal shelters on neighbor islands struggle with capacity limits and staffing shortages, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary has a unique situation that allows them to accommodate more cats.
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“For our situation, we will accept any homeless cat from Lanai,” said Keoni Vaughn, Executive Director at Lanai Cat Sanctuary, who added that their cat intake numbers have been steady since the pandemic hit.
“Unfortunately, homeless cats don’t care about COVID. They still need our help,” said Vaughn. “We bring in roughly 200 homeless cats a year from Lanai.”
Lanai Cat Sanctuary is the only animal rescue on the island, and since there isn’t a humane society or animal control, they do their part in being an open admission sanctuary. Vaughn shared that this isn’t very common as most sanctuaries are very selective with the animals they accept.
“As far as capacity is concerned, we will never take in more cats than we can properly care for, but we do have room for more,” he said. “In 2019, we expanded our enclosures to accommodate more so we wouldn’t be forced to turn cats in need away.”
But when the pandemic hit in early 2020, the Sanctuary had to close their doors in mid-March, prior to any government mandate. They were closed for four months.
“With our Sanctuary being the No. 1 attraction on the island, we felt that the responsible thing to do at the time was to discourage visitors from our small community of just over 3,000 people,” said Vaughn. “We wanted to do our part in keeping everyone safe despite knowing that this would significantly impact our donations.”
This year, Vaughn is hopeful their Sanctuary will gain more momentum as tourism spikes in Hawaii. Prior to COVID, they had over 15,000 visitors from all over the world walk through their gates. Since then, their visitor numbers have dropped about 30%.
Visitors would sometimes even get married at the Sanctuary, which hasn’t happened in a while. But this year, they have three marriages scheduled.
“We did have a ‘catchlorette’ party at our Sanctuary,” said Vaughn. “It was a private bachelorette party after hours. That was a first for us.”
At Lanai Cat Sanctuary, they’re not just saving cats, they’re also protecting native and endangered birds.
“We do this by focusing and welcoming feral cats from sensitive bird areas,” said Vaughn. “Rather than conservationists shooting or euthanizing them, we welcome these cats to our Sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their life or get adopted.”
They adopt out an average of 100 cats a year, and most of these adoptions (95%) are to out-of-state visitors.
“We believe it’s a win-win situation for both people who love cats and people who live on island that don’t care for them,” said Vaughn. “Without our work, cats would be multiplying at a rapid rate on Lanai.”
Lanai Cat Sanctuary is open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s no admission fee or reservation required. To make a donation or to learn more about the place, click here.
Interested in working there? The Sanctuary pays their staff at least $20 an hour. This was a decision made this month to ensure employees can remain on island and not be forced to move or change jobs due to inflation.
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In addition to the increase in starting salaries, the Sanctuary offers a generous benefit packages that includes full medical, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, 10 paid holidays, 10 vacation days and 10 sick days a year.
“We feel strongly that if we take care of our staff,” said Vaughn, “they in turn will take care of our cats.”