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Paris, London, NYC cafes mix culinary and cuddly

In Paris, Le Café des Chats, where Salem lives, is so popular it has an offspring that opened this fall.Chloé-Lou Hurstel

PARIS — As I stepped off the Eurostar train, my first stop in the City of Light and celebrated land of love wasn’t the Eiffel Tower with all its grandeur. It wasn’t the ever-mysterious Louvre. It wasn’t even one of the designer boutiques and chic ateliers lining the Champs-Élysées.

I had indeed come to Paris to tour these things. But first, my curiosity led me to 16 Rue Michel le Comte where I slipped into a cozy window seat at a cafe serving frothy cappuccinos, buttery croissants, chilled champagne, and robust cheeses — all in the company of cats.

Le Café des Chats is a feline fantasy turned real life labor of love for proprietor Margaux Gandelon. A year old, the first cat cafe established in France has already exceeded expectations with weekend reservations (especially for brunch) booking weeks in advance.


“I wanted to open a cafe,” Gandelon said. “I dreamed of one where humans and animals could go hand in paw.” Add her passion for all-things culinary and cuddly, and voilà, the concept was born.

The two-story space is full of vintage pieces: oversized leather sofas, distressed wood furniture, a piano on the lower level. The mood is calm, cool, and collected one minute as felines nap in the fetal position. “It’s a bit like having a cup of Earl Grey with your favorite aunt,” Gandelon explained. But the vibe can turn tail-spinning as cats slink between posts and playthings to scratch and sniff.

Twelve cats, adopted from various animal protection associations, call the cafe their home for as long as they’re happy and healthy. When a resident becomes ill, Gandelon is committed to finding a nurturing habitat where the cat can continue its nine lives with a retirement contribution set aside by the business.

In an effort to bridge the gap between rescue organizations and families looking for a furry friend, this animal lover (she has a dog and pony at home) is working to institute an adoption program for new cats at the cafe.


“We are quite picky when it comes to adoption,” Gandelon said. “It’s not ‘Will you have a cheesecake and a kitty to go?’ but more ‘How lovely of you to consider adopting one of our tenants. Have some tea and let’s talk.’ ”

Le Café des Chats has been such a success, according to Gandelon, that she felt compelled to open a second location. The sister spot for the cat- and coffee-crazed in Paris has been purring at 9 Rue Sedaine since early September. The space is modern in contrast to its predecessor and doesn’t require a reservation, but the cats meow and purr all the same.

“Lifestyles are becoming increasingly pet-unfriendly in densely populated cities, but people still love to be around animals,” said Lauren Pears, the director of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London. The tea house has received a roaring reception with sold-out reservations since its March opening. One glimpse inside and you’ll find city-dwellers catching their feline fix as cats lounge on Victorian-style camelback sofas and soak up the scene from atop vintage valises.

With restaurant health and safety codes more stringent in the United States, the feline and food concept hasn’t quite clawed its way to completion. In April, Purina ONE gave New York a taste. The cat food brand partnered with the North Shore Animal League to promote feline health and adoption by way of a pop-up cafe. More than 2,000 guests visited the Bowery Street space for cuddles with kitties and complimentary cups of “catachino” (a cappuccino with a foam cat face).


Even Boston has fancied the thought of feasting among felines. In 2013, Miaou Boston announced plans to open the city’s first cat cafe — a place where (according to the Twitter bio) “patrons can eat small meals and drink beverages while in the company of cuddly rescue felines.” But the endeavor has been mum on social media for the past year, and messages sent to Miaou Boston for comment went unanswered.

Noelle Barbosa can be reached at ruelechat@gmail.com.