France: New cat cafe is the pet of Paris

Los Angeles Times Travel Editor

Like cats after the cream, Parisians are flocking to a new cafe whose centerpiece is not food but felines.

Le Café des Chats, which opened a little more than two weeks ago in the 3rd arrondissement in the heart of the City of Light, was an instant hit and has been reluctantly turning away those who arrive without reservations.

The attraction, besides an elegant but simple menu that last weekend featured a 20-euro ($27) menu that included freshly squeezed orange juice and eggs scrambled with chanterelle mushrooms, are the furry denizens (10 females, two males) that lie on laps, perch on cat condos and strike stately poses in the front window, which reflected nose and fingerprints from those eager to get a glimpse of an assortment of tabbies, gingers, solid black and sort-of Siamese-looking restaurant residents.


Owner Margaux Gandelon took her cue from the immensely popular cat cafes in Japan, which number about 150, according to a BBC travel report last year. The French love their pets; there are 11.5-million cat owners in France, according to a Canadian pet food report of 2011. (The U.S. has about eight times that many cat pets but almost 250 million more human residents.)

This cafe seats 35 to 40, said Gandelon, a self-acknowledged animal lover (but who is currently without a cat at home). She worked with animal welfare and the health department to ensure proper standards for the cats and the customers.

Now she’s running this darling of the cafe set with help from mom Anne-Sophie and sister Chloe Lou, plus the crew necessary for a restaurant whose main appeal, oddly in foodie France, may not be what’s served at the table but what’s sitting under it. And near it. And above it.

On Saturday, the cats seemed to be taking it all in stride (all are rescues who were chosen for their mellow personalities, Gandelon said). One white-and-orange cat found a spot on an unoccupied chair at a couple’s table; another was conked out on a patron’s lap. A sleek black cat viewed the passing scene from atop a carpeted perch, raising its head to get the occasional pat from a patron, most of whom are female.

No real problems so far with bad chemistry between customers and cats, although among children, boys seem to play a little more aggressively (sometimes too much so), she said. None of these cats, by the way, have been declawed, which is illegal in France.

The future could bring franchises, Gandelon said, but for now, there’s a business to keep purring, customers who are lining up for a Fluffy fix and cats who earn their keep just by being cute. Judging by the look of the place and the satisfied smiles, it’s a formula that could prove to be the cat’s miaou.

Info: Le Café des Chats, 16 Rue Michel le Comte; reservations are a must:


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