007 at Ella's Cathouse and Catnip Bar

This black cat, named “007,” is one of 15 who will share space at Ella’s Cathouse and Catnip Bar, a new “cat cafe” and adoption center that will open at the end of January in Napa.

Sally Seymour photo

A new “cat café” and adoption center named “Ella’s Cathouse and Catnip Bar” will open in Napa at month’s end.

Fifteen rescued cats will share the 1,100-square-foot downstairs space while their human caretakers, the office staff of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, will occupy the 600 square feet on the second floor at 1009 Caymus St. on the northern edge of downtown Napa.

Although the grand opening will be 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, with an official ribbon cutting and tours through the facility, the 15 male and female cats are already enjoying their living room quarters, complete with couches. “They get a month to get comfy and cozy before the humans start coming in to visit,” said Monica Stevens, co-founder of JARR, St. Helena businesswoman and animal advocate.

Julia Orr, communications manager for JARR, liked creating a cat café in Napa, copying those she has visited in London and Los Angeles. “People can come in and sit on the couch and play with the cats. It’s cage-free, a very friendly environment. You can go in, play with the cats, sit on the couch and mingle.”

She hopes that Ella’s will become a destination point for people who are on a wine tour. They can drop in and “get their cat fix and spread the word about us. The cat café has spread across the world. There’s one that’s open in L.A., one in London, tons in Japan and one in Oakland.”

Stevens said the cats are predominantly from the Napa County Animal Shelter and were surrendered either in Napa or Lake County. The one criterion for the cats to be a part of the cat café is they have to be healthy to prevent diseases from spreading through the cat population.

“All are fixed, spayed and up to date on their vaccinations, flea and tick control,” Stevens said. “Our goal is to use this as a really exciting, joyful place to come and adopt a cat. Once the adoption happens, we can bring in another cat.”

Do the 15 all get along? “They tell each other who they allow in their immediate area but for the most part they all get along beautifully,” Stevens said.

After the grand opening, Ella’s Cathouse and Catnip Bar will be open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. four days a week (Fridays through Mondays), although only four visitors will be allowed in at one time and visitors will be limited to an hour.

Orr said, “The last time I went to the cat café in L.A., there was a queue down the road for people waiting to get in to have a cup of tea or coffee and hang with the cats.”

Ella’s will not be serving coffee or tea, but Orr said many fun things are planned, including a kitty cam, where you can tune in to see what the cats are up to, yoga classes, book readings and “Meow Hour,” instead of “Happy Hour.”

She added, “We have a small army of very dedicated volunteers, who come in daily and poop scoop and feed them and do deep cleaning.”

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Stevens interjected: “And love them and kiss them.” She said the 10 volunteers had completed their first week of training and will be caring for the cats seven days a week.

Beyond an opportunity to play with and/or adopt a cat and visit JARR staff, there is a bigger picture. Orr said Ella’s Cathouse hopes to change the public’s perception of rescue cats and cats in general.

“They’re not all these horrible animals that destroy wildlife,” she said. “They have such a bad reputation and we’re hoping to change that.”

Beyond that, though, Stevens said cats aren’t disposable. “When people decide to move or suffer a setback, the first thing to go is their cats,” she said. “We don’t want people just opening their doors and letting their cats go, hoping they will make it on their own outdoors.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of cat surrenders, and Stevens said JARR can help. If you have to surrender your cat, or need resources to keep your cat, she said people should call JARR, 815-8153. “We provide education and also a sanctuary.”

Ella’s Cathouse and Catnip Bar was named after Ella, a rescue cat who recently passed away, that Vanessa Conklin had for 15 years, Stevens said. Conklin has been the auction chairwoman for Wineapawlooza, an annual JARR fundraiser held in July for the past three years and has been instrumental in its success.

“We thought it was very fitting to name our cathouse after her kitty cat because of her commitment and dedication to Jameson,” Stevens said.

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David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st