The island of Lanai is tiny: The population hovers around a little over 3,000 people, mostly staffing the island’s Four Seasons resort. However amid the Hawaiian island’s turquoise waters and endless green foliage, hundreds of cats live in their own secluded paradise at the “Fur Seasons,” a sprawling sanctuary for the island’s feral cats.
The Lanai Cat Sanctuary is home to some 500 furry felines, who happily roam and play on 25,000 square feet of land on one of the most remote islands in the United States.
The cat paradise was created in 2009 to rescue the island’s cats that were being hunted due to overpopulation. It now opens its doors to thousands of cat lovers a year, some of whom travel to the island just to visit the “Hawaiian Lions,” as they are lovingly known.
Lanai became overpopulated with cats after the animals were first brought to Hawai’i more than a century ago on whaling boats. Strays were crawling all over the island, begging for food from residents and tourists. Viewing them as pests, residents took to trapping and killing the cats. So a volunteer program was started to catch the feral felines, neuter them, and release them back to the wild. But when it was discovered the cats were also endangering the native ‘Ua’u birds, a shelter was created to rescue the island’s cats and protect its birds at the same time.
Upon entering the eternally sunny sanctuary visitors will hear happy mews as they become the center of attention for a few Lanai kitties looking for love. Each of the cats is also available for adoption. The site lies on a plot of land with fresh running water but not much else. There is no electricity or plumbing. The sanctuary runs entirely off of donations from tourists, money the organization has been trying to put toward expanding the sanctuary and establishing a medical system for the feline residents. Lanai is so small and remote, there are few if any veterinarians on the island.
Know Before You Go
The sanctuary is near the Lanai airport and can be accessed from a couple dirt roads. After passing the airport, take the second dirt road on the left. There should be a rock denoting a highway labeled "Kaunolu." Turn left and look for a gate on the right. Visitors are welcomed to the tiny paradise from 10 am to 3pm.