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Sharing Mana‘o

I’m in love again!

OK, maybe not love, really; more like infatuation. Kimchi is her name and she is the cranky queen of Cat Cafe Maui.

As Melissa Tanji reported in the Aug. 8 edition of The Maui News, “the ‘space for cats and humans’ to interact has been bustling since its soft opening (Aug. 1) at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. … Cat Cafe Maui is the for-profit arm of the nonprofit Maui Cat Rescue. The organization’s mission is to facilitate adoptions of homeless cats on Maui and limit overpopulation. … The cats at the cafe come from the Maui Humane Society, which, in partnership with the cafe, also ensures that all the kittens and cats have received up-to-date, age-appropriate care.”

As a cat lover who hasn’t been able to keep pets for the past 20 years, I was delighted to see the cafe open. The idea originated in Taiwan back in 1998 and gained popularity with Japanese tourists, one of whom opened Japan’s first cat cafe in 2004. Today, the country boasts more than 150 establishments frequented by apartment dwellers and businessmen seeking stress relief in a cup of coffee, a couple of pastries and a cat purring in one’s lap.

Unlike the Japanese versions, cat cafes in the U.S. are required to keep the cats separate from the cafes. Cat Cafe Maui does offer complimentary coffee and tea, which are allowed in the cat lounge, but cookies and other available treats must be consumed outside.

Out of the dozen or so kitties I met on my first visit, Kimchi stood out because she reminded me of my first pet cat, Dr. Pepper, who could also be a bit of a grump. A beautiful black Persian-Siamese mix, Dr. P was particular about which humans he would allow to pet him, but if you were one of the favored, he’d happily snuggle up to you. However, he had no tolerance for other cats. Kimchi is the same way, showing her disdain by glaring at her fellow felines from her wall perch and hissing at any who dare to approach her throne.

She looks nothing like Dr. Pepper; she’s a shorthair, white with a few gray patches and a tail bent into a perfect right angle. I thought that an unfortunate run-in with a car or some other accident might have caused her crooked tail and subsequent grouchiness, but I later learned that she was born that way, and that the fairly common “Maui tail” (kinked tail or half-tail) is due to inbreeding. Kimchi isn’t the only Maui-tailed cat currently at the cafe; sweet-tempered, cuddly Blanco, who is, as his name suggests, all white except for a bit of gray on his face and a stubby gray half-tail.

Over the years, I’ve had dozens of cats, from tiger tabby Kilowatt to tortoise shell Tita, each with distinctive personalities. Jet-black Marconi played fetch like a puppy; no matter how many times I’d toss his toy across the room, he’d retrieve it and trot back to drop it into my palm for another round. At the other end of the spectrum, orange Pog was aloof and independent, content to exchange glances and nothing more with his humans.

The last cats I owned, Musashi and Puakea, were gorgeous blue point Himalayans. After a couple of years, my husband’s allergies worsened to the point where he told me, “It’s them or me.” I made the obvious decision, of course, but I’ll admit to having felt a twinge or two of regret in later years.

My husband has passed on, but circumstances still prevent me from having pets. So, after five visits in three weeks, I signed up to volunteer at Cat Cafe Maui. Now I get to commune with my spirit animals and fellow cat fanciers for two hours at a time, on a schedule of my choosing.

Cat Cafe Maui/Maui Cat Rescue could use many more volunteers. If you’re interested, go to catcafemaui.com and scroll down to the bottom of the page. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in years. And I think Kimchi is pretty happy about it too.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her e-mail address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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