One summer day in 2018, on a whim, I took my daughters to Laguna Beach for the afternoon. We parked on Forest Ave and began our walk to the sand. My then 8-year old was super excited to dive into the waves. My teenager was ready to dive into her phone. And I was looking forward to diving into my book.
And then we stumbled across it. The ‘Coming Soon’ sign on the window of what is now Catmosphere Laguna.
We passed the sign and then I said, “Hold on girls!” I did an about face and walked inside the building where some workers were putting the finishing touches on the cat café. I asked one of them if the business owner was around. He pointed to a classy looking woman who was typing away on her laptop in front of the Laguna Beach Visitors Center. Her name? Gail Allyn Landau. Founder of Catmosphere Laguna.
From the moment we shook hands, I found Gail to be warm, engaging, smart, and genuine. Her profound passion for kitty cats was infectious. As a female entrepreneur, I have been incredibly inspired by Gail’s vision, creativity, and work ethic. What she – with the help of her amazing team – do on a daily basis to connect shelter kitties to the right cat parents requires an unbelievable amount of hard work, dedication, and love.
Catmosphere Laguna is a must-visit destination if you live in or are visiting Orange County. In support of Catmosphere Laguna, Club Cat offers a 20% discount for your Catmosphere Laguna adopted kitty’s first visit.
Interview with Gail Allyn Landau, owner of Catmosphere Laguna
CC: You have an extensive background in law. When did you know you’d wanted to open a Cat Café and was it hard to make the transition from law to felines?
GAL: As a litigator with 30 years of practice, I have seen plenty of “cat” fights. Supervising my Law firm’s associates was most definitely like “herding cats.” Because I am a lifelong feline enthusiast, commonly known as a “Crazy Cat Lady,” I was thinking about a way to turn my rescue activism into a real full-time “purrrsuit.” This is truly a labor of love with a dynamic amount of activity each and every day.
CC: Did you visit a lot of Cat Cafés early on? If so, which one was your favorite?
GAL: I visited Tokyo in 2000 and failed to book a cat cafe visit in advance and missed out on my chance then. In 2017 I was inspired by my visit to Pounce in Charleston, South Carolina. I found the environment so warm and inviting, providing an entirely different way to think about feline adoption and the “shelter” experience. I spoke with the delightful owner, Ashley, and was convinced that I would open Orange County, California’s first cat cafe. I drew up my business plan on the flight home and, within a week, secured a meeting at City Hall in Laguna Beach. Trying to anticipate every question from the City Planners and Mayor, I definitely did my research of Cat Cafes in the US and throughout the world.
CC: Over the last decade, cat cafes have popped up across the country having originated in Taiwan and quickly
proliferating in Japan. Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and other metropolitan areas boast many cat cafes. Why do you think it took Orange County – with its many cat lovers – so long to build its first?
GAL: Judging by my initial head-scratcher of a meeting at City Hall and follow-up interviews with the State and County Health Departments and Animal Protection, it was clear that the animals’ health and welfare was the primary concern. The amount of advance planning, research, legal roadblocks, County and State Rules and Regulations and Codified Law, interviews, and dedication in the face of daunting challenges to a brand new concept might have deterred others seeking to open a cat cafe. The financial commitment alone, which I do not have to describe to you Shana, is a potential deal-breaker for even the most ardent animal lovers. The right location is key and my home of Laguna Beach was destined to be the home of Catmosphere Laguna.
CC: What makes Catmosphere Laguna different from your average cat café?
GAL: We are a 501 (c)(3) Foundation for the benefit of our rescued, abandoned, and special “kneads” cats and kittens. We work closely with the Ark of San Juan as a rescue partner and actively participate in local and County rescue and TNR programs. We are fortunate to appear regularly on television and on the radio promoting individual kitties. We educate the public and provide speakers and programs on feline care. Additionally, our vetting process and adoption procedures are much stricter than any I have seen or read about applied in any other Cat Cafes.
CC: Catmosphere Laguna has deservedly garnered a lot of media attention since its inception in August 2018 (and even prior to its grand opening). Can you describe some of the most memorable features?
GAL: Our regular appearances on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family Show not only make adoptions happen, they educate the public on what we are all about. Our adoption process is strict requiring 2 visits with the cat or kitten, an extensive adoption form and interview process, and a mandatory home check. Our process has been reported on and our mission to find “furrever” homes for our felines has been widely publicized, all to the benefit of the Rescue community. The Internet and newspapers and magazines are one thing but live radio spots such as with Laguna Beach’s KX 93.5 FM and Jack and Annie on KOCI 101.5 FM are just plain fun and make adoptions happen.
CC: You built something that Orange County did not have prior to August 2018 and yet you made it into a huge success. What has been the most challenging aspect of doing that?
GAL: The “hoomans!” We love our customeowers and do our best to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy in our Cat Lounge. Because there are two distinct aspects to Catmosphere Laguna, the retail Cafe and the separate Cat Lounge, we educate the public seven days a week about why we exist and what exactly is our mission. We have had more than one adoption per week since we opened our doors and could not exist without charging a fee to enter the Cat Lounge ($22/hour for adults and $12/hour from ages 6 to 17). That entry fee, rarely but occasionally, is a turn-off to those who do not understand what it costs to defray the costs of spay/neuter, vaccinations, micro-chipping, veterinary care, and feeding and housing our 14 to 16 cats and kittens. Of course, our Cafe with delicious toasts, salads, California beers and wines, and other assorted beverages is always free to enter. From the Cafe, our floor to ceiling glass wall enables diners to view the feline antics in the Lounge.
CC: Connecting shelter kitties with their furrever homes is clearly the goal of any cat café. What other aspects of opening a cate café have been rewarding for you?
GAL: The most rewarding aspect of becoming the “Furrrless Leader” of Orange County’s first cat cafe is coming to work each and every day realizing we are helping to save the lives of these fabulous felines. Those who know and love cats as we do cannot ask for a better “thank MEW” than their affection and the knowledge that we are changing the way the public thinks of adoption; no sad metal cages for our felines! Shana, clearly, your beautiful Club Cat shares our philosophy.
CC: What are next steps for the Catmosphere brand?
GAL: Catmosphere Laguna strives to maintain the standards we have achieved. We have exceeded each and every requirement applied by the City, the County and the State and will continue to do so. Our goal is to continue with achieving at least one adoption per week and educating the public as to just what rescues are all about and how important we are. We are approached on a regular basis by those who wish to self-promote through Catmosphere Laguna and we are very select about our partnerships and our endorsements of products and organizations. We are a proud partner of the Ark of San Juan, the Bluebell Foundation for Cats, the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter and many other Rescue groups, fosters, and TNR groups. Lastly, we are proud to partner with and promote Club Cat as the luxury destination for felines and the first feline luxury hotel in Orange County!