La Jolla’s Cat Lounge approaches 3,000th adoption

The Cat Lounge in La Jolla has kittens up for adoption.
(Courtesy of Renee Shamloo)

When the Cat Lounge in La Jolla opened in November 2019, management said it wanted to reimagine the shelter and adoption experience.

Inspired by “cat cafes,” where guests pay an admission fee to play with cats, the shelter at 1006 Torrey Pines Road asks for a $20 donation to spend time in a room full of cats with the hope that one will be adopted.

It must have worked.

As of June 30, the Cat Lounge was only two shy of adopting out its 3,000th cat.

“It’s insane,” said owner Renee Shamloo. “When I started, I had no idea it would become this. I started it in my apartment and used all my savings to open this location. When I worked out the business plan, I thought if we did two adoptions a week, we could stay open. Now, to see this impact has been mind-boggling to me.”

The Cat Lounge is a nonprofit that rescues cats from shelters in counties with a higher euthanasia rate than San Diego County. The public can socialize with the cats before — ideally — taking them home. Should a guest decide to adopt a cat, the $100 adoption fee ($200 for kittens) covers spay/neuter services, microchipping and vaccines. Donation proceeds go toward medical care for future cats.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people were taking in pets because they were home more and could dedicate the time, Shamloo said. Some weeks the Cat Lounge was sending 13 cats a day to new homes, she said.

“We’re a very small nonprofit; it started with just me for six months, now it’s four women,” Shamloo said. “And the four of us have achieved this together. It shows how important small business is and having a support system. More importantly for the cats, Southern California has high euthanasia rates … and they euthanize hundreds a month, so for one small organization to be able to save 3,000 cats is tremendous.”

Kittens and older cats are up for adoption, both with perks.

“This time of year is what we call the ‘kitten summer’ because that’s when stray cats go into heat and have babies,” Shamloo said. “We get 50 requests a day from other shelters to take in kittens, but we can only house so many. But for those that want a kitten to grow with their family, there are plenty now and in the coming months that are of adoptable age.”

Adult cats also have their charms.

“An adult cat’s personality is already formed, so when you meet them you know what you’re getting,” she said. “A kitten might be bouncing off the walls but become a lap cat as they get older. They also have a sturdier immune system and don’t get sick as often.”

One of the cats up for adoption at the Cat Lounge.
(Courtesy of Renee Shamloo)

Though Shamloo said “it’s not a numbers game,” she hopes to continue to adopt out cats at steady rates.

“We’re seeing our numbers decline a little bit, but we still adopted out 120 cats in June,” Shamloo said.

She said the Cat Lounge’s next goal is expanding and strengthening the facility to make it more efficient. “We have a kitten nursery and we are looking to structure it differently so we can rescue more but follow shelter protocols,” she said.

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