When plans were announced back in June to open up France’s very first “cat café,” the response was mixed.
Some animal rights campaigners were concerned that clients would turn the furry felines into no more than “teddy bears,” but one veterinarian praised the stress-relieving benefits of spending quality time with cats, likening them to “medication without side effects.”
There was nothing but consensus, however, when The Local stopped by the Café des Chats, in the trendy Marais district of Paris, this week.
("Please join me in the drawing room for afternoon tea.")
For Augustine, who works at the café, along with owner and founder Margaux Gandelon, the project has been “an enormous success,” since opening on Saturday.
“This is the third day in a row that we’ve only been taking reservations,” she says, pausing to politely turn away yet another hopeful cat-lover who hadn’t called ahead.
“We had around 800 people who wanted to visit over the weekend, so we’ve had to turn away quite a few disappointed people, some of whom came from all over France, too.”
“But from our point of view, it’s been an enormous success. We’ve had a lot of happy cat-lovers in here, but also plenty of people who didn’t really like cats up until now, and are discovering them now.”
To allay any possible concerns about the café, and to make sure the cats themselves are kept purring, there are a few rules that customers are expected to obey, says Augustine.
“Don’t wake them, don’t bother them, don’t feed them, don’t give them water,” she outlines.
“We’re in their house, and they’re allowing us to visit them, so we have to respect them,” she adds.
(A haven from rush-hour Paris)
Down a winding stair case, and in an intimate, atmospheric cellar with low, stone ceilings, Annick, from Paris, was chatting with friends and waiting for a cat to hop up on to her lap.
“I adore cats and I just thought this was such an original concept,” she says.
“A friend of mine told me about it because he knows how much I love cats. It’s great to see them in their own environment, and be able to cuddle with them a bit.
“I have a whole family of cats at home, and I’ve had them since they were really tiny. Over the years I’ve looked after maybe 50 of them in total,” she adds.
Laurence, for her part, was contending with two furry friends while sitting on a couch waiting for a waitress to bring over her orange juice to the table.
“I heard about it on TV and read about it in the paper, so a group of us decided to organize a trip,” she says.
“It’s really nice, it’s very warm, the décor is great. And the cats have been so friendly…so far,” she says with a smile.
Le Café des Chats is situated at 16 rue Michel le comte, in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.
CLICK HERE to see the full gallery: IN PICTURES: FRANCE OPENS FIRST 'CAT CAFE' IN PARIS