A coronavirus cat-astrophe: Orange County’s first cat cafe forced to close amid pandemic

A cat gets a pat on the head at a cat cafe
Catmosphere, the first cat cafe and lounge in Laguna Beach, closed this weekend after two years of operation.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

A Laguna Beach storefront has lost a purr-fect tenant amid the pandemic.

Catmosphere Laguna, Orange County’s first cat cafe, closed over the weekend after coronavirus restrictions made it impossible to make ends meet, owner Gail Allyn Landau said.

The cafe and lounge where customers could play with adoptable cats and kittens opened in August 2018.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a stay-at-home order affecting most of California.

Nov. 30, 2020

It’s not that cat lovers lost interest in cuddling the cafe’s fluffy residents — demand remained strong until the end — there simply wasn’t enough space for visitors to safely distance themselves, Landau said.


“I’m sorry to see it go, believe me — the happiest place in the world,” she said. “But I simply cannot afford it at this point with COVID restrictions.”

Once able to accommodate 12 people, Landau said a capacity limit reduced the business’ cafe area to only four customers. The lounge, which had space for 10, was also limited to four people because of coronavirus restrictions.

Catmosphere previously hosted big-draw events, including weekly Drag Bingo, which Landau cited as a boon to the business. Those gatherings, in which attendees could be packed in like sardines, had to be shelved.

Ironically, demand for cat adoptions has skyrocketed during the pandemic. And numbers typical spike during the holiday season as well, Landau said.

Amid a final push Friday and “Caturday,” as the cafe put in a Facebook post, the cafe celebrated its 195th adoption.

Landau said the business’ closure won’t stop her from connecting rescued felines with their “furever homes.” The eponymous adoption foundation that Landau launched in 2017 will continue to operate.


“COVID brought so many people to us looking for companions,” Landau said. “People were working from home, and suddenly their lifestyles were different.”

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, interest in adopting and fostering pets is soaring. Many facilities have waiting lists, even for kittens.

April 2, 2020

In March, the cafe had 16 cats available for adoption. They were fostered out and adopted “immediately,” Landau said.

That demand hasn’t subsided. Pre-pandemic, Catmosphere placed about one cat per week. Now it’s placing three times as many.

Those looking to adopt through Catmosphere need to fill out an application and undergo an interview and a home check with the intention of matching the right cat with the right home. The method, which Landau swears by, is continuing during the pandemic with some adjustments. Home checks, for example, are now conducted virtually.

“I’m a matchmaker to the meows,” she joked.

Even as the curtain falls and tails are taken elsewhere, a new chapter is brewing.

Catmosphere could reopen in a new location as soon as the spring. Landau said she already has started the scouting process and is tying the relaunch to coincide with when a widespread vaccine might be available.

In the meantime, those interested in adoptions — or no-strings-attached cuddling — can look out for pop-up events that Landau says are planned for the next few months.


Shelters and rescue groups report an upsurge of interest in adopting and fostering pets during the coronavirus crisis. Here’s a resource list.

April 2, 2020

Catmosphere isn’t the only cat cafe forced to pivot amid the pandemic. Crumbs and Whiskers, in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles, is temporarily closed “due to COVID-19,” according to its Yelp page. It’s slated to reopen on the first of the new year.

Other sites are adjusting as well. CatCafe Lounge in West Los Angeles is staying open, even as it has reduced capacity by half and implemented other safety precautions required by the L.A. County Health Department.

“Which means less people, and more one-on-one cat time,” according to the cafe’s website.

CatCafe Lounge has also rolled out a “catio,” where customers can spend time with what the cafe calls “kittos” in an outdoor environment.