Purrfect Parisians: Exploring the Cat Café in Paris

  • 01 of 04

    A Cozy New Niche for Feline Lovers

    The Cafe des chats in Paris (cat cafe)
    Bruno Vigneron/Getty Images News

    There are a few rules at the Café des Chats (Cat Café) in Paris: wash your hands before entering, don’t pet the cats while they’re sleeping or eating, and no flash photography allowed. The city's lone, recently opened haven for feline-lovers is loosely based on Tokyo’s popular cat cafes for lonely urbanites. The idea is to provide a safe place for cats that have been abused or neglected in the past, as well as offer furry cuddles for those needing a little TLC.

    Read Related: Cute Parisian Cats in Pictures

    Many apartments in the capital are ridiculously small, and this makes having pets a big challenge. But Parisians are, on average, also a lonely bunch: some 26% live alone. This can make staving off the blues a losing battle, but this new venue-- the city of light's first and only one, for now, promises to help alleviate the problem. 

    Located in the city's ultratrendy Marais district, the Café des Chats is the brainchild of city resident Margaux Gandelon, who also manages the cafe. 

    The feline scene: First impressions 
    Wedged between the tables of the two-story Café des Chats are cat beds and scratching posts, with dangling fuzzy things for the resident twelve cats to paw. Since September 2013, the café has been open to tourists and Paris inhabitants hoping to enjoy a coffee, tea, dessert or a salad while admiring the four-legged creatures in their midst. Reservations are no longer required, but are recommended -- see page three for details.
    But admire is all you may end up doing here. This is my one major caveat about the café. If one is not allowed to pet the cats when they are eating or sleeping, this doesn’t leave much time for petting the cats – given the relative simplicity (and nocturnal nature) of a cat’s daily life. During my visit, I only actually pet one cat – Pépite, a regal-looking black cat who sat stoically upon a fold-up chair on the bottom floor. While appearing slightly bored, she did let me pet her for a few minutes before skipping away towards the large couch along the front wall.
    So, in theory, the cat bar is a great place to bring children in Paris – and there are indeed children here en masse – but the urge to pet the cats at the most inappropriate moments could prove too hard to resist. My advice? Visit after the sun sets, when the little nocturnal fur balls start waking up.

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  • 02 of 04

    The Café des Chats in Depth: Ambiance and Caveats

    at the cat cafe in Paris France
    Colette Davidson/Licensed to About.com

    If I was somewhat taken aback by the regulations enforced here at the cat cafe, the seemingly strict cat interaction rules have been put in place for a reason. Owner Margaux Gandelon – who raised more than 35,000 euros on Crowdfunding to get the project going – has pushed back against criticism by animal rights associations, who have tried hard to prove that the cat café exploits animals.
    Gandelon worked with animal protection agency SPA during the initial set-up to make sure the café operates with the animals’ needs in mind at all times.
    “I wanted to create a [cafe] that was in harmony with a cat’s daily life,” says Gandelon. “They’re not here for entertainment value.”
    During the tour of the café, Gandelon points to Habby – thin and gray with black stripes – who hadn’t been adopted for two years and ended up here. Other cats, like Rosa, white with black spots, or Marguerite – the smallest of the group – had been neglected, abused or abandoned in the street before being rescued. Gandelon worked with the SPA to choose which cats would be allowed to live at the café, based on their ability to live side by side other cats and humans.
    The cats have plenty of nooks and crannies to crawl into at all times, as well as a back room only for them when they feel the need to escape humans. The twelve felines here are also closely followed by a veterinarian to make sure they remain in good spirits.

    Read Related: Cute Parisian Cats in Pictures
    “We know the cats really well,” says Gandelon. “So we know if they’re not doing well.”

    What about animal hygiene? 
    For those worried about hygiene, the café has thought of almost everything. Clients must apply hand sanitizer before entering the double set of doors at the front entrance, and the kitchen is closed off to cats. The staff also performs a major cleanup of the café two to three times a day to help stave off any unpleasant odors, or excess cat hair.
    Gandelon says most people who visit the café comment that the cat/urine smell is not nearly as overpowering as they would have thought, or as strong as it is chez eux. However, as someone who grew up with cats, I found the smell rather offensive, particularly on the bottom floor, where the already cave-like mustiness seemed to offer no escape for incriminating odors. As for nature’s call, Gandelon says there have only been a few incidents of cats peeing on handbags – and it happened when the café first opened.

    Pictured above: Tea and Cats-- what better pairing?

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  • 03 of 04

    Getting to the Cat Cafe, and How to Reserve

    A yawning cat at Cafe des chats in Paris
    Colette Davidson

    If you’re willing to give this concept café a try, you can now do so without making an advanced reservation, although it is still advisable to make one. Saturday afternoons should be avoided, as you’re not likely to get a table. And be forewarned that your cat-admiring adventure comes with a price – drinks and food at the Café des Chats cost as much as they do around the touristy Eiffel Tower or Champs-Elysées: 3 euros for coffee, 5 euros for hot chocolate, 4 euros for Coca Cola and 23 euros for the weekend brunch.

    But a good cat cuddle – if you can get one – is priceless, isn’t it?

    Please note: These prices were correct as this went to press, but may change at any time.

    Getting There and Contact Details

    Address: 16 rue Michel Le Comte, 3rd arrondissement

    Metro: Rambuteau (Metro line 3, 11)

    Open: Daily from noon to 10:00 pm

    For reservations: + 33 (0)9 73 53 35 81 or by email: reservation@lecafedeschats.fr

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  • 04 of 04

    Tabby Dips Into His Meal at Cat Cafe

    tabby at cat cafe in Paris
    Colette Davidson

    While it's not always easy to get to cuddle the adorable residents at the Cafe des Chats, it's also fun to sit back and watch them go about their exciting routine (eating, sleeping, grooming, and occasionally playing).

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