Seated on a bright orange stool and decked out in an almost floor-length, cat-patterned dress, self-professed “crazy, crazy cat lady” Gail Allyn Landau this week recounted tales of the feline friends that strut about the lounge at Catmosphere Laguna.
Sarah Candel, the “purrverbial” cat chaperone, said Sonia, a tabby and tortoiseshell mix, is the alpha kitty of the room and acts as both protector and peacekeeper. Whenever Sonia sees a dog that she deems a threat outside the glass walls that surround the cat lounge, she will run up to it and stare it down until it leaves.
“I have seen a dog almost shake in fear in front of her,” Candel joked. But, she added, Sonia’s a sweetheart.
She does have a streak of “tortitude,” said Landau, who has a penchant for cat puns.
Then there’s the sweet and playful Morning Glory, a dilute calico, and Yuki, who came in the other day. They’re still discovering her personality.
The cats lounge on fluffy pillows, chairs and a climbing post designed to look like a palm tree. Tranquil music plays as people peer in from the adjacent cafe or the Laguna Beach Visitors Center.
Fun fact: The tracks include subliminal purring. Really.
The current inhabitants of the lounge at 381 Forest Ave. in downtown Laguna also include Socks, Rocket, Aretha, Sundance, Meadow, Panda, Berlin, London, Marshmallow and Theodora — just a few of the 50-odd cats that have passed through on the way to their “furever” homes.
As of Thursday, there had been 54 adoptions from Catmosphere Laguna since it opened last year as a cafe that doubles as a rescue organization for homeless cats and kittens.And Landau has no plans to stop there as the establishment — which bills itself as Orange County’s first cat cafe — looks forward to its first anniversary Tuesday.
“We’ve really hit our goal, and I think we’ve made a huge impact in clearing the shelters and making room so they can take in other cats from kill shelters,” said spokeswoman Talia Samuels.
The anniversary celebration begins with a community “ap-purr-ciation” party all this weekend. The party is open to the public, but those who have adopted from Catmosphere are invited to a free lounge experience and complimentary beverages.
On Tuesday, customers can pick up Catmosphere Laguna merchandise for 25% off.
Catmosphere Laguna collaborates primarily with the Ark of San Juan, a nonprofit animal rescue based in San Juan Capistrano, along with other local shelters.
Though cats sometimes come from the Ark, Landau said the cafe has become more recognized in the rescue community in the past year and that people will directly appeal to it about rescue situations.
Catmosphere has begun to take abandoned, relinquished and found cats into the lounge after they are properly spayed and neutered and satisfy a host of other health-related requirements. It also is aiding animal foster communities outside its own.
Other changes include the introduction of Cat Camp this summer, where children 6 and older can make crafts and learn about and interact with the cats.
“We pride ourselves on education here and a better understanding, really, of felines and just how great they are,” Landau said.
Landau, a Laguna Beach resident, said she’s thankful to the city for being forward-thinking on what the cafe could do for the community.
She said Catmosphere Laguna wouldn’t be here if not for the people who contribute to its nonprofit foundation. All proceeds from the cat lounge and donations are put toward medical care for the cats.
“Once I was able to demonstrate to the health department, to the city of Laguna Beach, to the county and to the state that this could be done, since I was the first, I think it has enlightened everybody as to how there should be a new way to think about adoption that doesn’t involve sad metal cages,” Landau said. “But it involves interaction. Not just with cats, but with dogs too.”
“I see [cat cafes] as a trend,” she added. “I really see this — I know it’s been around in Asia for a long time — but I see it as a growing trend here in the United States where we understand that these cats and kittens do not thrive in the environments where most of us adopt. They do thrive in an environment like this one.”
Since Landau’s opening last year, Caturday Lounge opened in Brea in June and the Feline Good Social Club opens in Long Beach this weekend. Both offer adoptions. Before Catmosphere Laguna, the only cat cafes in Southern California were Woodcat Coffee Bar near Chinatown in Los Angeles and Crumbs & Whiskers near Beverly Hills.
“Laguna has been very, very kind in accepting us,” Landau said, smiling. “They were thrilled when I brought this idea to City Hall in 2017. It took me a good year and several months from my idea to actually having this place open. It’s a labor of love.”