Friday, July 14, 2017

A Purrfect Pet Project – Cat Therapy Santa Barbara

Catalina and Snow
I'm not being catty but Cat Therapy is the only cat café between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Owner Catalina Esteves (yes that's her real name, yes I understand the irony) is originally from Argentina but moved to Santa Barbara with a crazy idea, to help adult cats get adopted. You book a reservation to hang out with the cats, make friends, play, let them sit on you, read, you can even have a party and book out the room. You can order food or drinks from a restaurant across the street (Brasil Arts Café, and the food will be brought to you) and de-stress…however no one will pet you – all combing is for kitties.

Maggie...with an attitude
Opened in May 2017 this former yoga studio now houses typically around 14 cats, oh and they do offer a cat yoga class. Catalina had this crazy idea and spoke to the mayor, from there on the City was really helpful, probably because nothing like this had been done before. It’s the perfect way to spend some time in Santa Barbara. Cat Therapy partners with the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, the Ventura County Animal ServicesShelter, and ResQCats.

“We help adult cats get adopted,” Catalina tells me and they've had 16 adoptions since they opened less than two months ago. One cat recently adopted had a bunch of cat-ostrophic strikes against it; it was a senior cat, it was black, it was half deaf and had no tail. How difficult would it be for this cat to find a new home if it sat in a shelter? Here the cats roam freely, some more social than others, but the freedom to move unfettered allows them to be more who they are, and as you interact with them, you might be drawn to a specific feline.

My boys, Toby and Jasper
So, why exactly do people come here, I ask? “There are three reasons. One, is people who are actively looking to adopt a cat. The second is for people who can't have a cat perhaps because of where they live (rental restrictions, other animals) or allergy considerations of a loved one.” And third she says, well some people just love to hang out with animals. As the proud owner of two cats (Jasper and Toby) and an animal lover, I get this. But I also wonder about the stereotype, you know, the crazy cat lady syndrome. But Catalina tells me a group of guys recently stopped in and were somewhat mesmerized. In fact a couple that was there when I visited owned four cats but made a point of coming here, and visiting animal shelters to give love and attention to other cats.

To be clear they are not sales people, so if you happen by and they ask if you’d like to come in you will not be given a cat and told to pay up. Besides, there’s no handle on the front door, so you can’t gain access unless they let you in. All cats have current shots and are up to date health-wise, and ready to head home with you. If not, the place is sterilized after each group visits and though there are rugs, the floors are concrete so there’s less dander build up if you’re sensitive. Yes, Cat Therapy makes me happy – anytime humans come into contact with animals and have a positive e experience it makes us humans better. After all, human or animal, we all live to the level that we are loved. “When you witness an adoption it's a very emotional thing, we are a place for all animal lovers,” Catalina says.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sealed With a Pen - What Blubber, the Hearst Castle & Wine Have in Common

I see you! (Photo: Visit San Simeon)
Just days before President Obama left office he invoked the Antiquities Act of 1906, and no, it has nothing to do with antiques. What President Obama did was to expand the California Coastal National Monument, a move that provides added protections for the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas located just north of San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. The California Coastal National Monument, originally established by President Clinton in 2000, protects and preserves “objects or sites of historic or scientific interest” along California’s Central Coast. More than 17,000 elephant seals migrate thousands of miles to come to this secluded sandy beach twice per year, and now they are fully protected. Bless their fat little hearts.

Boys being boys.
Located four miles north of the Hearst Castle, 12 miles north of Cambria the elephant seal rookery is visible by “Elephant Seal Viewing Area” signs. If that doesn’t work you’ll see a lot of people looking over a low wood fence pointing indiscriminately. No one is certain why the seals keep showing up here, but they do.  In the winter months the seals come here to breed, in the summer months, they molt. Winter is the best time to view the males, females and newborn pups. They might seem lazy at first, strewn across the sand like so much chubby road kill. But they can be forgiven. They can dive up to 3,000 feet and swim at three miles an hour and, let’s not forget, they carry all that blubber with them. They started appearing in these low sand protected beaches in the early 1990s and haven’t left yet. The males will spar for territorial rights, the females who appear to just want to be left alone. And they are loud, making a horrible sound like a bad Chewbacca impression. The seals are around all year, though not in the quantities like summer and winter. The docents are there all year too, people in blue coats emblazoned with “Friends of the Elephant Seal” on their jackets. Ask them anything. The information is free, the show is free and you might spend more time here than you ever expected.

The Big Sur Coastline
“We’re very grateful to President Obama to include one of San Simeon’s most precious resources as part of the California Coastal National Monument,” said Michael Hanchett, president of the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce. “This elephant seal rookery has become a globally loved place. Three-quarters of a million visitors come to see them each year, which helps support and preserve local businesses and jobs.” Obviously Hearst Castle is nearby, the charming town of Cambria, the Piedras Blancas Light Station, whose tower and support building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Just north you begin the staggeringly beautiful Big Sur Coastline. There are wineries dotted south in Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, and a plethora of them on Highway 46 West, which, runs from Cambria to Paso Robles. Time to hit the road, my friends!
Chillin' (Photo: Solterra Strategies)