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The Cat Lounge: A place for felines and people to come together

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
The Cat Lounge Rescue and Adoption Center on No. Torrey Pines Rd. in La Jolla is shown on Dec. 8, 2022.

Every day, a number of animals are euthanized in shelters in San Diego County, including cats. That fact haunted Renee Shamloo. 

So, a few years ago, she decided to do something about it — something life-changing for her.

You'll find it on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla, close to the end where it meets Girard Avenue; a lounge for people — and cats.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
The Cat Lounge Rescue & Adoption Center founder and executive director Renee Shamloo is shown with KPBS reporter John Carroll in the nursery portion of the Cat Lounge on Dec. 8, 2022.

It's a place where some felines destined for euthanasia are rescued; a lounge where love between people and cats blossoms.

“I worked with other shelters, rescues, veterinary hospitals and wanted to just do things differently," Shamloo said. She's the founder and executive director of The Cat Lounge Rescue and Adoption Center.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A sign displaying the Cat Lounge logo inside the nursery is shown on Dec. 8, 2022.

Shamloo is a practicing attorney; that’s her 9-to-5 job. But as much as she loves the law, her passion for cats compelled her to get involved in rescuing them and matching them up with people. She started in her apartment.

“And it was successful, but that’s such a small scale, so I knew I needed something," Shamloo said. "So that’s where the Cat Lounge came from and yeah, this is it now.”

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
The lounge portion of the Cat Lounge is shown on Dec. 8, 2022.

The building that is now the Cat Lounge and Rescue had been vacant for some time, so it was affordable. It opened in 2019.

About a year ago, Shamloo obtained the space next door. A wall was knocked down and a nursery was born. It is light and airy. Kittens are kept with their sisters and brothers in separate compartments.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A kitten is shown in the nursery portion of the Cat Lounge on Dec. 8, 2022.

“You don’t want to swap or intermingle litters because one might have diseases and the other one doesn’t," Shamloo said.

The compartments have clear walls. Shamloo, along with her staff and volunteers aren’t fans of cages.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A cat is shown relaxing in the lounge portion of the Cat Lounge on Dec. 8, 2022.

Anyone who works at a shelter will tell you the kittens get adopted much faster than their older counterparts.

That was the case for Rebecca Powell and her husband Cain who came in to browse.

“I’ve never had cats before, so it’ll be new," Powell said.

After a few minutes, love was in the air, and a new chapter of human-feline relations was about to begin.

“Suddenly I met those two kittens and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is great and they like me, I think,' and so I guess they’re gonna come home with me," Powell said.

Over on the lounge side, the adult cats spend their days welcoming visitors, no doubt hoping for that right one.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A cat is shown looking out of a cat tree at the Cat Lounge on Dec. 8, 2022.

But it’s not a bad place to wait. There are lots of toys and cat trees, even a catwalk hangs from the ceiling; there is plenty to do.

The Cat Lounge Rescue and Adoption Center is nonprofit. It survives on donations and on admission. There is a fee of $20 for adults, $10 for kids and seniors.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A cat is shown looking out of a tunnel in the Cat Lounge on Dec. 8, 2022.

Shamloo said most visitors don’t end up adopting. She said a lot of people just like spending time here.

“We have Wi-Fi so if you want to bring your laptop and do work," Shamloo said. "I don’t know how much work you’ll get done."

But for those who adopt, the cost of admission is subtracted from the adoption fee, which ranges between $95 and $300 depending on the cat’s age.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
One of the older cats at the Cat Lounge is shown getting some love on Dec. 8, 2022.

But once you’re a cat parent, the Cat Lounge doesn’t abandon you.

“Once they do go home, we call after a few days to see how things are going," Shamloo. "We are always a resource for our adopters, and I think that’s one of the best things about adopting from a rescue is you have our knowledge and our care behind it."

That knowledge and care has had a pretty remarkable outcome.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
A chalkboard showing how many cats have been adopted each year from the Cat Lounge is shown on Dec. 8, 2022.

A chalkboard in the corner of the lounge spells it out. Once the pandemic hit, adoptions shot up from 223 in 2019 to nearly 1,700 the following year. The total to date is 4,573 cats; connections made, homes found, lives saved.

The Cat Lounge: A place for felines and people to come together

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I'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.
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