Don’t let your fur fly: Relax with a bevy of 4-legged friends at the only cat café on Kaua‘i

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From left: Nicole Schafer Crane, the cat Slate and Tanya Ramseth. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

TropiCats – the first and only cat café on the island of Kaua‘i – is rapidly approaching its six-month anniversary in late March of this year.

“October, November, December … Yes, six months. Wow, it’s gone by so fast,” said a surprised Nicole Schafer Crane while seated among the seven felines currently living at the café. She looked up at the café’s co-owner, Tanya Ramseth, who stood nearby. Ramseth smiled and nodded in emphatic agreement.

They should have known: Time flies when you’re having fun.

Schafer Crane and Ramseth – who are executive director and director of development at the nonprofit Kaua‘i Humane Society, respectively – have had a lot of fun since opening TropiCats on Sept. 22, 2023.

The small business, located on the second floor of the Harbor Mall shopping center in Nāwiliwili, was established as an avenue to adopt some of the many cats cared for at the Kaua‘i Humane Society animal shelter in Puhi. The shelter, which is intended to hold a maximum of 150 animals at any given time, is chronically over-capacity.

  • The TropiCats storefront, located at the rear of Harbor Mall’s second floor. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • The nearly 300-square-foot cat room can house up to 10 cats at one time. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • One corner of the cat café includes this custom bench. Litter boxes are hidden inside. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

Cat cafés provide patrons an opportunity to spend time with friendly felines while enjoying a beverage or snack. The first cat café opened in Taiwan in 1998 before the concept gained widespread popularity in Japan. Today, they can be found around the world.

Several would-be cat cafés fizzled out on Kaua‘i before the opening of TropiCats, according to Schafer Crane.

“Since I’ve been at the Humane Society, I’ve had at least two or three people come in saying, ‘We’re going to open up a cat café and we’d be happy to partner with you,'” she said. “We’ve always been very eager, but there was always a roadblock. It typically came down to them not really having a full understanding of how to care for the cats … We’re never going to put our cats in a situation where they’re not first.”

Then, in April 2023, Schafer Crane and Ramseth attended a “cat camp” in San Diego that included a session dedicated to the use of cat cafés as adoption outlets.

“We had been waiting three years for someone to finally do a cat café … We needed another outlet for cats to get adopted in order to decrease stress on the shelter,” Schafer Crane recalled. “[We thought] ‘If no one else is going to do it, we guess it’s going to be up to us.'”


And so Schafer Crane and Ramseth – already colleagues at the Humane Society – decided to become business partners as well.

  • Schafer Crane’s husband Matthew Crane helps run the cat café during his spare time. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • The café retail space is chock-full of feline merchandise. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Merchandise at TropiCats ranges from tote bags and backpacks to novelty socks, stuffed animals, pins and more. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Schafer Crane and Ramseth’s favorite café decoration is this novelty tissue dispenser. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

“We had a lot of fun shopping,” laughed Ramseth, gesturing at the vibrant decorations placed throughout the café’s nearly 300-square-foot cat room, which can house up to 10 four-legged friends at any given time. Highlights include an “ALOHA” mural punctuated by wall-mounted cat lounges; a “tree” topped by enormous faux leaves; and a cozy bench filled with cat-sized hideaways.

A smaller retail space, located at the entrance to the café, is similarly loaded with feline furnishings – plus plenty of cat-themed merchandise. All profits keep the business going; according to its owners, TropiCats is hardly a money-making endeavor.

All cats housed at TropiCats are up-to-date on medical care and are spayed or neutered. Their adoption fees go back to the Kaua‘i Humane Society.

Twenty such cats have been adopted since the business opened at the tail-end of last summer. Many go to Kaua‘i homes, of course, although some are taken in by tourists from throughout the mainland United States: TropiCats residents have found “forever homes” in California and Oregon, as well as Pennsylvania and North Carolina on the far side of the continent.


“What brings us enjoyment is, of course, adoptions. We love seeing animals – in this case, cats – find their forever homes. That’s always at the top of our list,” said Schafer Crane. “What’s also really enjoyable for us is getting to see children meet their first cat. That is always pretty exciting. Watching their parents guide them through how to interact with animals, how to become empathetic and respect them.”

Schafer Crane and Ramseth believed TropiCats would cater mostly to children. However, the bulk of their patrons are adults who can be divided evenly between locals and tourists.

  • Pimsy wakes up from a nap in the café’s custom-built cat bench. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Kerplunk isn’t winking. The cat’s left eye is is stuck in a permanent squint. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Slate, like all the cats housed at TropiCats, is exceptionally comfortable around loud noises and new people. Taken Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

“[TropiCats] is a place where you’re going to slow down. Vacations can be quite stressful, even if they’re supposed to be relaxing,” Schafer Crane said. “And for those of us that live on the island, we’ve got jobs, we’ve got busy lives. But there’s nothing rushing you at the café. You’re in a judgment-free zone where you can relax.

“I think when we joke and tell people, ‘Come in for your fur therapy session,’ there’s a lot of reality to it as well. It can be really relaxing and really helpful for people to just take a moment,” Schafer Crane continued. “I think that’s why it does appeal to adults. It’s fun and playful, and you get to watch cats be crazy and you laugh at them. But it can also just be very calming.”

Case in point: Business owners have expressed interest in holding staff meetings at TropiCats, to de-stress personnel.

The business also hosts birthday “paw-ties” and regularly scheduled events including Cat Yoga on Wednesdays, Purr & Palette (free art supplies) on Fridays and Date Night (BYOB) on Saturday evenings.

TropiCats is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. For more information about the cat café, including 30-minute and hourly rates, visit its website here. You can also follow the business on Facebook and Instagram.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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