By Gabrielle Mix, Special to the Independent
Home to 30 dog-friendly restaurants, a dozen pet groomers, beaches that are nearly 100% dog-friendly outside of summer and a popular dog park, Laguna Beach demonstrates its residents’ love for animals.
By month’s end, the beach town is expected to add to its extensive list of pet and animal services with Catmosphere, a combination shelter and café in the heart of downtown.
Last year, local Gail Landaudiscovered the cat café Pounce on a visit to Charleston, S.C. “I was just entranced and intrigued and I had such a delightful time there with the ladies and the cats,” she said.
The self-proclaimed cat lady wrote a business plan for Catmosphere on her flight back home.
Originating in Taiwan in 1998, cat cafes now span the globe and make kitten and cat adoption more personal with living-room-like settings and menus offering tasty treats for human guests, such as at San Diego’s Cat Cafe.
“I thought of it as an alternative to a shelter,” Landau said. She believes shelters have the tendency to traumatize animals, making their ability to become socialized more difficult.
In order to ensure her kitties are purrfectly comfortable while waiting for their new families, Landau has designed the cafe, located at 381 Forest Ave., to be composed of three distinct areas including the cafe portion for humans, a kitty lounge area decorated with surfboard beds and a large, tropical scratching tree designed by Urban Feline and a quiet bedroom space where cats have their own personal condos.
If a kitty is unwell,  Landau has arranged for two go-to Laguna veterinarians to care for her charges and ensure they are healthy, vaccinated, spade or neutered and socialized.
“I will bring no kitty into Catmosphere Laguna that isn’t socialized and a good little citizen,” she said. Although the owner said she will do her best to help each cat in need, she said the shelters she has partnered with will have no problem taking them back if they are not responding well to their feline roommates.
Among Catmosphere’s local partners are the non-profit Blue Bell Foundation, the city run animal shelter and a cat sanctuary.  Blue Bell was founded by Bertha Gray Yergat as a boarding facility for senior cats in the 1960s and became a nonprofit in 1987.
“We’re really fortunate to have someone like Gail who really wants to do this first-class and do exactly the right thing with the best interest of the cats,” said Susan Hamil, chair of Blue Bell.
Landau adopted a cat from Hamil years ago and is excited to have a friend and fellow cat-lover on board.
“There’s so much need out there in the cat community to get cats of all ages permanent homes. So when Gail came to us, we really got behind it,” Hamil said.
The cafe will house 10 to 12 cats and be open to an equal amount of visitors at any given time. People will have the opportunity to meet and play with the cats after sampling from the cafe’s menu, which is to include avocado toast and champagne.
At Catmosphere, cats will be catered to  with the volunteer chaperones Landau has hired to monitor people’s behavior towards the cats. These volunteers are expected from the Laguna Woods Cat Club, Laguna Beach High School and Saddleback College.
Hamil described the perks of this type of adoption process. “I think it offers a great way for people to interact with the cats before they adopt them. You can’t just walk in and get a cat… the cat kind of has to choose you,” she said.
In order to bring in Catmosphere’s feline residents, Landau partnered with Blue Bell as well as the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter and Laguna Woods Cat Club.
Laguna Woods contracts with Laguna Beach for animal services.
Beverly Elwell, of the Cat Club, decided to partner with Catmosphere because it offers a fostering resource for the Club.
“There are thousands of cats in need in Orange County. The public service that Catmosphere will provide to Laguna Beach will be beyond measure,” Elwell said. She believes that the cafe’s prime location and warm, welcoming atmosphere will promote more adoptions.
“Animal rescue is a difficult business, but once the kinks are worked out, Catmosphere is going to be hugely successful. It’s an idea that’s crazy enough to work,” she said.
In a town that was early to adopt the “no-kill” shelter policy and provides sanctuaries for birds and marine life, Elwell might be right about Landau’s crazy idea.
Landau said the community’s response to her enterprise has been overwhelmingly positive with cat and dog people alike expressing their excitement.
“I think it’s a great add-on to the city,” said Angela LaValle, owner of Laguna’s self-service dog wash and store, Dog Tub. She has had numerous customers mention Catmosphere and their enthusiasm for this new resource. “It is an animal-based community and we really treat our animals like family,” she said.
In fact, 9,330 dogs are licensed to 6,377 owners in Laguna Beach, according to Jim Beres, the police department civilian services administrator. Cats do not require a license.
The animal shelter charges a $24 licensing fee and half price for a dog that is neutered or spayed.
 “I think this represents a change in how we think about adoption. It doesn’t have to be that sad cage and a scared kitty coming home. It can be a cat that’s fully integrated and who comes home happy to be in their forever family,” Landau said.
She hopes to open Catmosphereby Saturday, July 28, and accept reservations for the first week of August.
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