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A home for Dale: Cat Lounge’s 3,000th adoptee travels from San Bernardino to Lemon Grove through La Jolla

Dale, an adult tuxedo cat, was the 3,000th feline adopted out by the Cat Lounge in La Jolla.
Dale, an adult tuxedo cat, was the 3,000th feline adopted out by the Cat Lounge in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Greg Venier)

La Jolla’s Cat Lounge ushered in July with a milestone — it adopted out its 3,000th cat.

Lucky No. 3,000 is an adult tuxedo cat named Dale, who went home to Greg Venier and Jay Blangero of Lemon Grove on July 1.

The Cat Lounge, which opened in November 2019, 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.

Inspired by “cat cafes,” where guests pay an admission fee to play with cats, the Cat Lounge 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. Donation proceeds go toward medical care for future cats.

Venier and Blangero have adopted cats from the San Diego Humane Society and other nonprofits, and they put special importance on establishing a bond with an animal before taking it home. That was difficult, if not impossible, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did some research, visited some places, and when I found the Cat Lounge, it seemed like the perfect place,” Venier told the La Jolla Light. “During COVID, precautions have been escalated in all areas to keep people and animals safe. When my partner and I were looking to adopt, it was a challenge to go anywhere because they didn’t allow anyone to spend time with the animals. I’ve adopted a few times, and spending that time creates a bond. You know immediately whether it was the animal for you. When we realized we could spend time with the cats [at the Cat Lounge], we went right away.”

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

When it came to finding their newest family addition, the two actually had their eyes on a few other cats. One didn’t want to be around them, so that wasn’t going to work out. They were considering another one so seriously that Venier took a picture of the cat with Blangero.

In the background of that picture was Dale.

“He looked sad and deflated,” Venier said. “It turned out he had a cold, so he wasn’t looking his best. He was not the cat that first catches your eye. I went to sit down and felt a tap on the side of my leg and there was Dale. He sat up and put his paws up to pick him up and hold him. When I did, he sat on my shoulder like a bird and wanted to be perched. My partner came over, so I put Dale down and Dale went right to Jay. At that moment, we knew this was the cat for us. I felt this intense love with him.”

Dale and new owner Greg Venier of Lemon Grove
Dale and new owner Greg Venier of Lemon Grove celebrate at home after Venier and partner Jay Blangero made Dale the 3,000th cat adopted from the Cat Lounge in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Greg Venier)

Venier said he goes the adoption route because “pet stores and breeders are for profit … I have always been skeptical of going through them to get animals. Places like the Cat Lounge and the Humane Society are nonprofits and the money goes to animal care and I am all about that. For these organizations, every animal deserves a second chance.”

For Dale, that second chance could have meant the difference between life and death.

“Dale was actually found in a trailer park in San Bernardino, and we think someone dumped him,” said Cat Lounge owner Renee Shamloo. “A cat that is raised on the street is usually underweight with health issues. But he looked good and was well taken care of, so we think he had a family that left him. Dale literally walked into someone’s trailer looking for attention.”

Rather than take Dale to the local shelter — which Shamloo said only holds animals for about a week before they are euthanized, especially adults, as they are less likely to be adopted — the person reached out to a friend about where to take the cat. The friend knew of the Cat Lounge and brought Dale down from San Bernardino.

“It was a big community effort, a lot of networking, to prevent him from stepping foot in a shelter,” Shamloo said.

“Almost all of our cats were found roaming the streets, or their owner died and the family didn’t know how to care for them, or they were otherwise abandoned,” she said. “We’ve been an intervening force.” ◆