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From CAT scans to Catmosphere: Former medical malpractice attorney Gail Landau follows her bliss


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

How about this for a heartwarming tale that captures the essence of Orange County’s only cat café and rescue, Catmosphere Laguna?

Jana Sullivan explains: “Five years ago my cat Kimbo got lost in Laguna, and I’ve missed him ever since. Recently I got up the nerve to look for a new kitty to adopt and give a good home and went to look at Ark of San Juan’s cat adoption page. As I looked though the photos, one stood out – it looked exactly like my missing Kimbo. I traced him to Catmosphere Laguna, where he was now being housed.”

“Roady” walked up to Jana immediately when she stepped into the cat lounge and started purring loudly, rubbing his face all over her face in greeting, just like Kimbo would have done, Jana says. 

“He was the same size and weight as my missing cat, had the same loud purr, same face and body shape, had the same white marking on his belly, and other unique markings, along with some new white patches of fur growing over several gnarly six to eight inch mostly-healed scratches all down his back. He’d clearly lived through something intense. 

“I remembered how he had gotten a cut when he was a kitten from playing, and when it healed over it healed white, like the new scratches on his back. I looked and realized this cat even had that same small white patch on his arm.

“It was Kimbo.” 

From cat cafe

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Gail Landau’s Catmosphere Laguna Cat Café & nonprofit rescue foundation fulfills, she believes, her purrpose in life

These are the kinds of match-ups that thrill owner and founder Gail Landau, a blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque woman almost always garbed in elegant cat-themed outfits. Her nonprofit foundation rescues cats and provides them with a loving home at the cat café until they find their perfect parents – in this case, Kimbo’s original parent.

The selected cats come from shelters or in one recent case, from a duffel bag of kittens abandoned on Forest Ave.

Gail believes that her deep desire to care for cats was implanted early in her life, when her family lived in a house in Northern Illinois surrounded on all sides by farmland. 

“My memories are full of cats and dogs coming and going all the time. Our home was a magnet for all kinds of animals, especially barn cats. My mom and I loved to take care of them.”

CAT scans and an endoscopy machine lead to matrimony

Catmosphere Laguna came into being after Gail retired from a long and successful career as a medical malpractice defense lawyer, where part of her job entailed reviewing, yes, CAT scans. “But to own a cat café was always my dream,” she says.

During the course of her work, she met her other great love, her husband Dennis, a doctor, who knew just how to woo her – and it wasn’t with a fancy diamond ring.

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to marriage again,” says the previously divorced Gail. “But then Dennis invited me to come to his office to see his new endoscopy machine. And when I saw how passionate he was about his work, I knew he would be supportive of my dreams, and it was clear he was the right man for me.”

Who knew an endoscopy machine would lead the way to matrimony?

Dennis now adores cats, though when he first met Gail, he hadn’t given much thought to matters of the feline kind. “They clamber all over him now,” says Gail, who has three cats at home – and two daughters. “We were a package deal.”

From cat Gail

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Gail’s daughters invented the Catmosphere name and logo

Gail’s daughters are very much involved in the enterprise.

“Behind the feline scene, my daughter Erin is our social media guru and handles coverage of all events and daily goings-on including communications with all our adopting pawrents,” Gail notes. “She’s a trained yoga instructor and runs our Cats on Mats Meowga every other Wednesday morning from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

“My daughter Sasha writes the Mewsletter our followers enjoy each month and helps coordinate the adoption process and the necessary final step in our procedure, home checks. Of course, behind the scenes, they also assist me in keeping Catmosphere Laguna purring along.”

Oh, and it was Gail’s daughters who came up with the name “Catmosphere” – though it’s not the only Catmosphere cat café – there’s one in Sydney, it turns out, and apparently at least one person has mistakenly booked time with Australian moggies instead of American cats. 

Pied Piper – but no rats

Gail’s love for her furry short-term residents is obvious, and it’s a love that is fully requited. The cats follow her wherever she goes in the cat lounge. She is their Pied Piper, and while she doesn’t lead them to rats as they might hope, she does make sure that they are fed tasty, nutritious food and receive the maximum affection. 

She is, indeed, their Furrless Leader.

From cat cats

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Catmosphere Laguna cats are the luckiest of rescues

How does it feel when cats are adopted from Catmosphere Laguna? Gail and café manager Madison Mister say in unison: “We cry!”

With happiness, of course, because the mission of the nonprofit foundation is to find “furrever” homes for rescued kitties of all ages. But Gail and her staff are also sad to say goodbye to their feline favorites, kittens, especially.

Gail takes great care to ensure that the cats’ future homes are safe and loving.

“We could have adopted out many more of our kitties if we weren’t so meticulous about inspecting their future homes. I had to refuse someone who had no screens on her windows – plus her neighbor breeds pit bulls. That was an easy no. Others are more complicated. We’re very picky.”

A relentless punster, this cat Meowmy

As readers can tell, Gail is a relentless punster. For example, for shy cats, a private “meowting” with possible owners can be arranged. 

And she’s very creative when it comes to special events. Lots of kids have held their birthday “pawties” on the premises. 

Naturally, there is a “happy meowr,” during which customers enjoy beer, wine, and tasty toasts and salads – or, yes, they can choose to have a meowmosa. 

Gail also holds Drag Queen Bingo on a monthly basis, with prizes.

Many visitors to nonprofit Catmosphere Laguna are there simply to enjoy the company of the romping or sleeping cats for an entry fee of $22 per hour. 

“Cat cafés charge up to $35 an hour, so we’re on the low side,” Gail adds. “The money goes to the care of our kitties. There’s no admission fee for eating lunch in the cat café and watching the cats through the glass window, of course.”

The nonprofit is grateful for community support

Visitors to Catmosphere Laguna, entranced by the cats’ antics in their decked-out playroom, complete with an enormous fake palm tree and wall-caves, often don’t realize how much activity goes on behind the scenes at the nonprofit – and how costly it is to run the operation. There’s microchipping to be done, spaying and neutering, regular flea treatments, veterinary bills, rent to be paid, and toys and food and litter to be bought for the 14 - 16 cats that call the place their happy home at any given time.

From cat kitten

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Catmosphere Laguna kitten considers adopting a human

“We’re so very grateful for donations and our volunteers,” Gail says. “It’s with the community’s help that we’ve been able to ensure that these rescues get to live their best life. In one year, we adopted out 58 cats, more than one a week.”

Herding cats is Gail’s specialty

“Surprisingly most of the cats get on with each other or ignore the others. Sometimes bonding happens, with an older cat snuggling with a younger cat. That happened with Arthur and Tostito, who were adopted together as a bonded pair and are now therapy cats at the Silverado Nursing Home.”

Gail feels that her background as an attorney helps in running this unusual nonprofit.

“Put it this way, I know how to herd cats – for a long time I was the managing partner at a firm of attorneys, one difference being that lawyers weren’t adopted out, though maybe I’d have liked some of them to have been…But they were similarly intelligent and strong-willed, though not as mysterious.

“So I learned important organizational and management skills, and how to build relationships. That’s been vital in making Catmosphere Laguna a success.”

True, but it’s Gail’s warm heart, passion, and devotion to all matters cat that sets her cat café/rescue apart. Just one visit to see Gail interacting with her beloved furry charges is enough to turn one’s heart to mush.

Let’s face it, Gail is simply meowvalous.

Oh, and Kimbo?

“He is still the same sweet, fearless kitty, and he doesn’t seem traumatized or scared,” Jana says. “He seems very happy and content now that he’s home.”