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Meet Catalina Esteves of Cat Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catalina Esteves.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Catalina. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I lived there my whole life, until someone really special to me (now my husband), asked me if I wanted to come visit him here in California. I knew him from his time living in Argentina. I had never been to the US before. I had a serious case of the travel bug and I also felt a very deep connection towards him, so I came to stay with him for a month. That month turned into four months and we actually ended up getting married that same year. Now we’ve been married six years and have a little baby! I had only worked as a musician and photographer by then, but I come from a family of self-employed parents. They were always adapting to the economic cycles of Argentina and would always see the opportunity somewhere. They never worked for anyone else. I wanted to do something I loved and to be my own boss too. Cat Therapy came about because I wanted to start my own business, but I wanted it to have a mission I was very passionate about. I’ve always felt a really strong connection towards animals and after volunteering at a cat rescue here in Santa Barbara, I realized cats were the most euthanized pet in the United States. Helping save their lives was something that didn’t feel like work. Helping socialize cats, photographing them so we can promote them for adoption, chatting with potential adopters and helping them find their purrfect match, I can’t explain how happy that makes me. As Cat Cafes became more popular in the United States, I realized that there was something for me there. A potential mixture of business and rescue that got me working nonstop to create a concept, a brand and eventually a storefront. I opened Cat Therapy as a place where people can experience the wonderful animal-human connection, have fun and also adopt. It is now also an online store where we sell awesome merchandise, pet products and my favorite new thing: Online experiences. So far, we’ve done yoga classes and a wine class, but we’re working on more live events. We also offer cat sponsorships to help us fund the cat’s care during COVID-19.

Has it been a smooth road?
It wasn’t a smooth road, and it certainly still isn’t. I think one imagines creating a business as a linear, steady road and once you get there, that’s it, you seat back and can be comfortable. The reality for me has been that every time I finish climbing the hill, I realize that there’s another hill even higher waiting for me on the other side. Overall, it’s an exciting process, but it isn’t for the faint of heart! Kind of like a rollercoaster! When I started developing the idea of Cat Therapy, I was suggested to talk to a local investor and entrepreneur that could help us make a storefront a reality. It all sounded so good. We signed a lease with him and an agreement. I was very new in business but I had a vision. After a few weeks of working together, things got weird. He was verbally abusive and had a really strong temper. He extortioner us out of the agreement and it almost cost us the whole project. We found out later he had been doing this to other young entrepreneurs as well. It was a very early introduction to the legal aspect of business. Thankfully we got out of that, opened the space and then the next three years were dedicated to building a brand, a community and a location that people loved. There were ups and downs, especially during the Thomas Fire, but I think overall we’ve established ourselves in the community. Now with COVID and the uncertainties of how in person experiences will be affected, we have been developing an online store to ensure we can keep funding the location where we foster our cats. It was really hard at first, trying to understand how to bring the in-person essence of our business to the online world and we’re still experimenting. So far, it’s been working out great. We’ve now started doing online experiences where we host classes and mini workshops at the space with the cats and we live stream them and people have been loving that. Our space is beautiful in design and it’s not what you think of when a “cat lady” or a cat shelter comes to mind. That is what I also wanted to reflect in our new line of apparel and I think we’re achieving that! The feedback from our online store has been really good so far. Overall, despite the challenges, I believe we have something good happening, we’re really helping cats and our rescue partner. People can see that and that is why their support has gotten us through very hard times.

Please tell us about the business.
Cat Therapy helps rescue cats facing euthanasia by fostering them in a cage free environment, a beautiful space we’ve designed in the heart of Santa Barbara, CA. Most shelter cats live in cages or kennels until they are adopted. This can produce a lot of stress and a cat that isn’t feeling good is unable to show its true personality to potential adopters. By housing these cats in a comfortable, safe and nourishing environment, we drastically improve their quality of life and give them a temporary home while they wait to find their forever family. When a cat is fostered at Cat Therapy, we provide them with the socialization and love they need to thrive and be ready for the day their purrfect human walks through the door.

We partner with organizations who save cats at risk of euthanasia in high kill shelters and cats facing homelessness on the streets. By fostering these cats in our space, we are able to make more room in their facilities to use for cats that need immediate rescue, therefore saving more lives. By housing cats in an environment where they can be socialized, recover from trauma and feel comfortable, we allow them to show their true personalities. This makes it easier for potential adopters to connect with them the same way they would at home. We have been able to make over 500 kitty-human matches due to our unique approach to cat adoptions.

To ensure we can fund our mission and continue helping cats, we offer experiences where you can visit our cats in person. We now also sell awesome apparel, accessories, cat products, cat sponsorships and virtual tours & events, so you can get involved with our cats from anywhere in the world, without leaving the comfort of your home.

I am proud of Cat Therapy for encouraging people to do good for cats, regardless of their ability to adopt or foster. We have built an amazing community of animal lovers that support our mission and stay connected with our cats. We have also helped rescue and re-home over 500 cats and raised over $50,000 for the rescue organizations we partner with.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I am in Santa Barbara, so I’m not sure if this applies to me. But If I had to choose something, I love about the city I live in, and this area of California, is how open-minded people are about new concepts. In my home country I would’ve never been able to open up a place like Cat Therapy. I feel like California is really aware of animals deserving to be treated fairly and I’ve only experienced support towards my goal of saving cats from unnecessary euthanasia.

Pricing:

  • Cat Lounge Visits (with updated protocols for covid safety): $16-18 per person for an hour. $40-44 start price for a private visit (having the whole place closed off for you and those who you wish to bring with you).
  • Cat Sponsorship is $25, with a recurring membership option
  • T-Shirts are generally $22-28

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos by Catalina Esteves & Alex Buckley

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