Tucked nicely into a group of small businesses and just off State Street in Santa Barbara, Cat Therapy is a lounge that helps saves cats from being euthanized.
In 2021, cats were euthanized twice as often as dogs. So this place is a good place for cat lovers to unwind and maybe make a new friend.
Penelope Bianchi visited the café and left feeling wonderful.
"So therapeutic, and this is a wonderful way to socialize cats. All the cats in here are used to people and they're not skitzy, they're not scared," Bianchi said.
The cage-free environment improves the quality of life for the cat and also giving them a chance to show their personalities to human guests.
In many cases, cats in shelters aren't socialized to people which can make them harder to adopt. But the café provides space for them to hide if they aren't in the mood for company, letting them feel safe and secure around people at their own pace.
Melissa Galbreath has adopted cats from shelters and from Cat Therapy.
"It's night and day difference in terms of experience the cats are having. For an animal to have the space to be an animal and roam and explore and just get to be around other people and animals, it's so much more healthy for them," Galbreath said.
An entry fee and the sale of merchandise is used to pay for the care of the cats who will stay there until they are adopted. The actual adoption of the pets is coordinated through the non-profit, Stray Cat Alliance, which rescues cats from kill shelters and the streets.
By housing the hard-to-adopt cases, Cat Therapy frees up space at shelters, said founder Catalina Esteves.
"We help them empty spaces in their foster homes or in their facilities so that they can have more room to rescue more cats that are currently in the street or that are currently in the shelter system," Esteves said.
If you do want a cat, often times you won't have to pick a cat, because chances are a cat would be comfortable and pick you.
"They really do choose their people and so it's really fun to experience that," Esteves added.
Since Cat Therapy opened in 2017, over 700 cats have been adopted.
But even if a visitor doesn't adopt, they do leave feeling a little bit better and know they've helped socialize one more cat looking for a forever home.