When it first opened its doors last year, this crowd-funded Paris café – based on a Japanese concept Frenchified in the heart of the trendy Marais — was rumored to have a four-week waiting list for Saturday brunch. But that had nothing to do with the food, or the coffee. Ailurophiles and Francophiles can get a double shot of sheer pleasure at the Café des Chats, where the twelve adorable live-in cats are the star attraction.
Inside the Paris cat cafe (all photographs by the author)
Carefully chosen from shelters for their sociable personalities among both humans and other cats, the feline residents spend their days in the lap of luxury — or indeed in the lap of anyone they choose — imparting ronronthérapie (“purr therapy,” that’s the scientific term) and relaxed vibes while you sip your café crème.
There are strict rules in place to maintain all-round hygiene and the well-being of the animals, but they basically roam free over two levels, curling up atop the piano or in plush leather seats and comfy corners of this charming rock-den; the Aristocats could have done worse.
I used reverse psychology and a dangling toy to distract the inquisitive black-and-white Orea from my tuna tarte — feeding is forbidden — while the regal Khalessi lolled like a Manet nude on a nearby canapé as an artist sketched her from life. (The names are helpfully etched on the tables and listed on a photo chart so you can try to summon your favorite.)
I’m not sure the ronronthérapie really worked wonders on me this visit. A little cat-challenged, perhaps? Rather than swooning in a state of warm, fluffy bliss, I was a little perturbed by the fact that none of my advances were met with outright enthusiasm; that the cats seemed to prefer the company and caresses of my date, and that he, at that moment, preferred theirs. I eventually sank into a velvet armchair and looked on as a group of elegantly dressed elderly American ladies and two French bearded hipsters suddenly found themselves on the same social plane, speaking the same language: cutesy-wootsey.
I would suggest booking a table downstairs, not too late in the evening when our furry friends are all either dozing (strictly do-not-disturb) or fantasizing about their 10pm feeding.
For the craziest Parisian cat-lovers there’s a carte de fidélité (loyalty card). After all, repeat ronronthérapie sessions are cheaper than a shrink.
Le Café des Chats is at 16 rue Michel Le Comte, Paris. Métro: Rambuteau