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Hawaii: TripAdvisor users pick 'Fur Seasons' and its 500 cats as a top Lanai attraction

Hawaii: TripAdvisor users pick 'Fur Seasons' and its 500 cats as a top Lanai attraction
A cat finds a spot in the sun at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary on the Hawaiian island. (Lanai Cat Sanctuary)

Which Hawaiian tourist stop gets really good buzz on at least one travel website?

TripAdvisor ranks the Lanai Cat Sanctuary as one of the top attractions  on the lesser-visited Lanai island. Take that, Shipwreck Beach and Garden of the Gods.

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Mike Hanog, manager of the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, is tasked with caring for 501 wild or unwanted cats that live in what has been described as the "Fur Seasons."
Mike Hanog, manager of the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, is tasked with caring for 501 wild or unwanted cats that live in what has been described as the "Fur Seasons." (Lanai Cat Sanctuary)

Recent TripAdvisor users describe the sanctuary as a "cat lover's paradise" and "heaven on earth" – no surprise since it is home to 501 felines. That's on an island with only 3,100 humans.

The sanctuary is located along a red dirt road not far from the Lanai airport.
The sanctuary is located along a red dirt road not far from the Lanai airport. (Lanai Cat Sanctuary)

A couple hundred tourists a month spend, on average, a couple of hours each at the sanctuary. Toys are provided for folks who want to play with the cats. Guests can also brush them or simply sit among them.

The sanctuary is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily (directions are provided online). While there's no admission charge, donations are, of course, welcome.

"Ninety-five percent of our donations come from people who have visited our sanctuary from all over the world," Vaughn says.

Executive Director Keoni Vaughn says the sanctuary relies on donations from visitors to support its cat rescue program.
Executive Director Keoni Vaughn says the sanctuary relies on donations from visitors to support its cat rescue program. (Lanai Cat Sanctuary)

"I call it the Fur Seasons for cats," executive director Keoni Vaughn says with a chuckle. It's a nickname based on the luxurious Four Seasons Lanai resort a few miles down the road.

"You'll see the cats just kind of lounging around," Vaughn says. "It's a really safe environment for them. They're well fed and watered."

The sanctuary was founded after government wildlife officials threatened to exterminate the wild cats that were preying on Lanai's native birds.

"By removing unwanted or feral cats off the landscape not only provides a humane solution for the cats but it also protects our native birds that we deeply care about," Vaughn said.

A couple hundred visitors a month travel to the island of Lanai for the purpose of interacting with the shelter's hundreds of cats.
A couple hundred visitors a month travel to the island of Lanai for the purpose of interacting with the shelter's hundreds of cats. (Lanai Cat Sanctuary)

With no resident veterinarian on the island, vets from Oahu travel to Lanai twice a month to care for ill cats and to handle spaying and neutering.

And if you want to adopt one? Well, it's a timely and pricey process. Fewer than 40 cats were flown to new homes on the U.S. mainland last year.

Info: Lanai Cat Sanctuary, (808) 215-9066

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