The Cat Lounge: Where Best Fur-iends Are Made


Reagan Kliber

Cats at The Cat Lounge are well cared for: free to live as they please and provided with an abundance of structures and toys.

Along Torrey Pines Road, The Cat Lounge’s broad window reveals cats Walrus, Dumpling, and Pumpkin Head taking naps on cat trees, trying to catch feathers, and feeling the love on people’s laps.   

According to its website, The Cat Lounge is a non-profit cat “rescue and adoption center” that aims to “Rescue, Rehabilitate, [and] Adopt” cats out to the community. A not-so-hidden gem, the Lounge is beloved by many Bishop’s community members. “If any Bishop’s student wants to visit to see the cats or adopt a cat, they have student discounts, so bring your student ID!” said Jennifer Xiao (‘24), who recently visited.

Even if they don’t plan to adopt, Bishop’s community members are invited to spend the day with the shelter’s cats for a small, discounted entry fee that goes towards taking care of the cats. Marina Khoury (‘24), who also visited The Cat Lounge, said, It was a really good experience, and the staff was super nice.” She added that “logistically, [her visit] went really smoothly.”

Ms. Renee Shamloo, owner and executive director of The Cat Lounge, explained that visiting the Lounge helps it towards achieving her number one goal in running the organization: teaching the public about animal rescue “as opposed to buying from a breeder, the puppy mills, or Craigslist, so that people can start making more conscious decisions.” “I think a lot of people just don’t know,” she reasoned, and visiting the Lounge “is a great way to show them the work that’s done and then have them contribute.”

Renee Wang (‘24) volunteered there during the COVID-19 pandemic and remembers her time as a positive experience. She spoke of a friendly environment that “helped [her] realize that it was easier to care for cats and animals than you would expect” and boosted her serotonin levels. “Everybody was really happy and in a good mood…and you make a lot of friends very quickly,” she said.

The Cat Lounge’s website says that its volunteers take care of cats and kittens and oversee animal interactions with the public. Ms. Shamloo explained that the Lounge depends daily on its loyal volunteers, and described the community’s initiative to support the Lounge as a chain reaction: “Once the community stepped in and gave me a hand, it started spreading,” she said.

Before she owned The Cat Lounge, Ms. Shamloo was an attorney for animal rights. “The legal process takes years to see any results, and I wanted to do something more hands-on. So I left the field, and I spent the next six years working in animal welfare in different ways,” she said. The responsibilities Ms. Shamloo undertook during this time have influenced her current work: “I think about when I worked at other places, other rescues and shelters…[and] that has really shaped how I want to be an executive director with my staff, guests, and volunteers,” she said.

Eventually, after considering how she could channel her interests and skills into promoting animal welfare, Ms. Shamloo arrived at an idea that would change cats’ lives: “Let me take a cat cafe and make it a twist! Remove the cafe. Just make it a lounge. Focus on adoptions,” she remarked.

The Cat Lounge’s mission began when Ms. Shamloo went to animal shelters that had high animal killing rates. During her visits, staff members directed her to cats that would be euthanized by the end of the day. “[One] day I left with 18 neonatal kittens,” Ms. Shamloo said. “That was one day,” she added, seriously, “and imagine the next day how many lives were at risk.”

Taking the cats to her apartment, Ms. Shamloo worked on rehabilitating them and adopting them out—the other part of The Cat Lounge’s mission. But, as she continued in this process, she realized that “if [she] wanted to make more of an impact, [she couldn’t] be doing it out of an apartment.”

Soon after Ms. Shamloo established The Cat Lounge in 2019, the pandemic hit. But, despite its tolls, it gave the Lounge an opportunity to flourish. “During the height of COVID, when everyone was in lockdown…I think I was doing over 230 adoptions a month…and our average is usually 70-100,” Ms. Shamloo reminisced. In an interview last year with the La Jolla Light, Ms. Shamloo attributed this influx of adoptions to the fact that more people had time to care for a pet. 

Whether they want to start an animal care-centered organization or not, Ms. Shamloo advised individuals who want to start their own non-profit to “do [their] research before [they] make that jump…get the experience first, [and] find a mentor.” She also encouraged Bishop’s community members that “sometimes people feel powerless at making a difference,” but “there are always ways to help…you matter and you can make a difference.”