By Nicole Fernandez | Staff Writer

In October 2018, Cindy and Mark Washburn opened the first, and so far only, cat cafe in Hawaiʻi. It is located at 415 Kapahulu Ave. and is open every day at 10 a.m., though closing times vary. Created as a way to introduce adorable kittens to potential adopters, Hawaiʻi Cat Cafe is the brainchild of Cindy Washburn.

A member of the U.S. Coastguard, Cindy graduated from UH Mānoa with a business entrepreneurship degree in 2018. She opened the cafe with the purpose of helping the many homeless cats in Hawaiʻi find their forever families without having to wait at an animal shelter. It is the first establishment of its kind in Hawaiʻi, a proud accomplishment for Washburn. The O‘ahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) provides most of the cats. Customers are allowed to visit the cat lounge for half an hour ($10) or a full hour ($15). Purchase of a beverage or snack is not required, but customers are allowed to take their items into the lounge area.

The cats roam freely in a room seperated from actual cafe, and customers are welcome to interact with them. (Photo by Nicole Fernandez)

Upon entering the lounge, which is separated from the cafe by a large window wall, the pure scent of cat hits the nose: a familiar mix of kitty litter and feline fur. It’s not overwhelming, making it easy to get used to within a few minutes. Nearly half a dozen cat towers take up the corners, double the amount of toys, and multiple cushions line the walls. The room is well lit and pleasant, the only restrictions that you do not feed, harm or pester the animals and abide by the time limitation you pay for.

Most of the older cats can be found snoozing in one of the many “houses” or perches on the towers, while the younger ones patter around aimlessly, ready for attention. The workers enforce a limit of how many people can be in at the same time, allowing for everyone to spend some quality time with each feline. 

The goal is that every cat stays until they are adopted. They are all immunized, chipped and neutered so that, theoretically, a person could take home a new family member the very same day. Depending on their age and how long the cats have been staying at the cafe, adoption prices range from $50 to $150.

Mark, a current Kapiʻolani Community College student, helped his wife fund and prepare the shop starting from the early months of 2018, but Cindy takes care of everything. 

“Yeah, it’s Cindy’s baby,” Mark said. “She always wanted her own business, and this was something that we could do where she [did have it], while combining cats and coffee, which are two things that she loves … and to also feel great about what she does [at] the end of the day.”