There’s a new hangout on Caymus Street in downtown Napa, and it’s the cat’s meow.
Ella’s CatHouse & Catnip Bar is a cage-free, no-kill, cat adoption center that officially opened last week.
Ella’s provides a free-range sanctuary for unwanted healthy cats and a way to identify “forever” homes for adoptable cats. It’s a project of local non-profit Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch.
“Cats are often discarded or treated like no one’s property,” said JARR co-founder Monica Stevens. “We decided we’ll open a place to give good, loving forever homes” to those animals.
Ella’s is similar to cat cafes that have opened in cities like San Francisco or Oakland. However, Ella’s doesn’t serve up food – just a healthy dose of cat love.
Guests – up to four per hour — are invited to visit, spend cuddle and couch time and play with the cats. There is no charge for admission.
Open to the public Friday to Monday, Ella’s occupies a large open office space formerly home to a graphic design business at 1009 Caymus St. It’s just a few doors behind Toy B Ville on Main Street.
The “cathouse” includes comfy couches, chairs, tables, cat tree houses and a gift shop. Up to 15 cats at any one time will be in residence.
It’s hard not to miss Ella’s — the large front windows of the cathouse are filled with tree houses offering cat-eye views on either side of the glass.
On Monday morning, Napan Dan Castner stopped outside the window when the lounging cats caught his eye during his morning walk.
“I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the cathouse. “I just love what they are doing here.”
Dwinelle Coffee of Angwin visited Ella’s with three other friends. Coffee was celebrating her birthday, as was another member of the group.
“I can’t get enough of cats,” said Coffee, who owns a number of the pets. Spending time with cats “is my favorite pastime.”
“This is delightful,” said her friend Eleanor Wood, the second birthday celebrant. “The purring brings my blood pressure down.”
“I’m a cat lady,” admitted Lydia Wilson, one of the quartet of friends. “I read about this and pounced on it right away.”
The women said their idea of bliss would be sitting on a couch at Ella’s, covered by a pile of friendly cats.
Even though it is occupied by more than a dozen cats, Ella’s is free of pet odors.
A cleaner visits daily, explained Stevens. Multiple litter boxes are regularly scooped. Food for each cat is dished out on schedule.
“There’s nothing more important” than to keep Ella’s clean and disease free, Stevens said.
Some 20 volunteers and six JARR staffers help feed, clean and cater to the cats.
For Ella’s residents, life seems ‘purrr’fect. The cats are free to wander, sleep, stretch and scratch to their hearts’ content.
“Saving one cat won’t change the world, but to that one cat, the world will change forever,” read a quote displayed on one wall.
During a visit on Monday, many of Ella’s occupants were taking the proverbial cat nap, while others padded around, batting at toys or rubbing up against visitors. Unlike at some animal shelters, there was no caterwauling; it was calm and quiet inside.
A three-legged calico cat named Wildflower, who was rescued from a vineyard, gamely navigated along a narrow ledge, while a friendly white and black cat named Kramer literally draped himself around a visitor’s neck like a furry, warm scarf. A tuxedo cat named Buddy, new to Ella’s, hid under a futon, getting the lay of the land.
Forming a visual catalog of available pets, portraits of the felines currently calling Ella’s home are displayed in one nook. Six cats have already been adopted since Ella’s opened, said Julia Orr, communications manager for JARR.
Stevens said Ella’s cat crew will be curbed at 15 so the animals don’t get overwhelmed.
Cats are spayed or neutered and vaccinated before they join the club. The fee to adopt a cat is $100 or $75 if two or more are adopted at the same time.
The current cats at Ella’s have been rescued from various situations, said Orr.
JARR works closely with the Napa County Animal Shelter to take in any cats that are not doing well at the shelter. Others come from owner surrenders or owners who have died.
The name Ella’s CatHouse comes from a beloved rescue cat cared for by a JARR volunteer, Vanessa Conlin. Ella, who died in 2016, was a feral kitten born on a neighbor’s porch.
The cat casa also plans to offer regular events such as Meow Hour, yoga classes and art shows.
To avoid the catastrophe of too many cat fanciers trying to visit at the same time, reservations are encouraged.