Native Intelligence: O‘ahu

Kitty Klatch

Story by Tiffany Hill. Photos by Elyse Butler.

On the periphery of Waikīkī is a cat lover’s oasis. Inside the Hawai‘i Cat Cafe, you’ll see keiki dangling toy mice in front of calicos and adults snuggling tabbies or just watching them as they sleep on their perches. In October 2018, owner Cindy Washburn turned her passion into a business when she and

husband Mark opened Hawai‘i’s first and still only cat cafe. The couple partnered with the O‘ahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which provides kittens and cats for the cafe (which also happen to be adoptable).

For $10 for thirty minutes or $15 for one hour, you can play with and peer at the kitties. Cafe staff know the names of the ten to twenty cats in residence at any given time as well as a bit about their personalities and histories. (In case you forget, there are snapshots of each cat and its name hanging on a wall.) On a recent visit, Duchess, a friendly nine-month-old black cat with one eye, was meandering around and snuggling up to everyone who sat down. There was also feisty Loki, with his little white boots, and a playful snow-white cat named Ice who loves the feather wand. So far the cafe has adopted out fifty-six cats, says Washburn; because the SPCA has a no-kill policy, cats stay until they’re adopted. Some find a home in a day; others, like the bicolor tuxedo named Diamond, have been there since the cafe opened. But most stay a couple of weeks on average. “We get a lot of locals looking to adopt,” says Washburn, “but also visitors who miss their pets and people who just love cats.” Beyond adoption, the cafe aims to educate about responsible pet ownership, such as the drawbacks of declawing and how to help curb O‘ahu’s feral cat population through the SPCA’s trap/neuter/release program.

While most come for the cats, Hawai‘i Cat Cafe is also an actual restaurant, with coffee, pastries, cookies and more. “Every-thing is freshly baked, and the coffee is roasted on-island in a refurbished roaster from the ’40s,” Washburn says. Then there are special events: Every other Sunday is cat yoga. “We have mini yoga mats for the cats,” says Washburn. “We sprinkle them with catnip.”