The Café des Chats in Central Paris

I went to visit a little haunt that I knew about in Paris in the autumn of 2019. It was a café in the central district that also provided a cosy refuge for abandoned pussy cats. I am a bit of a cat person myself and that came from my earlier childhood days in England. I supposed that the café owners in France were just the same. I’m not especially keen on muddy, smelly and aggressive dogs. I much prefer a calming collection of home loving and purring moggies.

Cats were regarded as sacred in ancient Egypt so many centuries ago. Nowadays they are regarded as a contemporary part of Japanese culture. They have also found a home in Paris provided by Margaux Grandelon. She opened her first Cat Café in 2013 in the Marais district. I visited her second little establishment close to the Bastille monument at 9, Rue Sedaine. It was a warming and cosy experience.

Cafe des chats The Café des Chats here is all that it claims to be and more. I called in and had to wipe my hands in disinfectant by the door. There were a number of perfectly domesticated cats inside all occupying their apparently exclusive and ‘bagged’ places. All was calm and well- ordered and the brasserie was filled with diners and coffee drinkers.

There were some established rules that had to be obeyed. Customers should not awake sleeping cats and should not pick them up. They were not to be disturbed unless they chose to be. The furry creatures mostly were resting and they provided a relaxing, stress reducing and easing environment for the busy Parisian office workers that came off the maddening streets to take their coffee breaks or their lunch.

Many customers wished to dine at a table with their friends. They had to make a reservation in advance but coffee, beer and nibbles were always available to everyone. Clients are told to stay ‘Zen’. I looked up the meaning of that word and it was entirely appropriate.

The cats have all been rescued from animal shelters around Paris or from the streets. They all get the best of care, comfort and guaranteed security in the café. They live their ‘stand- alone’ lives in a perfect form of feline harmony.

Cafe des chats All of the completely domesticated pets have their own food dish and their personnel favourite little spot to observe, rest and sleep. Disturb them at your peril. The cats seemed to rest in their own places and protect their ‘place de terre’. The top of the piano and the high book shelf right up by the ceiling were the most popular choices. First come, first served was their rule and they were not to be shifted. All of the creatures were very happy and just stayed inside. They did not wish to go back to the harsh world that went on beyond the cafe doors.

The felines seemed all warm and invitingly cuddly, but customers should never, ever, take any of them away from their comfort zone. They would probably give you a bit of a nip if you tried.

All the cats have their own name. You might discover what these are. Salem, the spotted black. Khaleesi, a Siamese hybrid and she welcomes visitors just like a geisha girl as you arrive. Track down Ringo, Chloe and Idylle too. Search for the very illusive Peanut and Maisie as well if you can find them. Zan, the all smooth, black and newest male guest seemed a bit unruly when I turned up. They might choose to come and sleep on your lap now and again. Disturb them if you dare. You will have to wait until they have got up and wandered off.

Many of the rescued pussy cats have their pictures and origins displayed on the walls of the cafe. Their background and where they were located are detailed. All have their own personalities and all are used to living with humans in the harmonious environment of the warm cafe.

Cafe des chats The cafe was their home from home for ever. Customers share it with them but cannot ever take over. Many visiting children loved to stroke the cats but were only irritatingly tolerated. This café stands as the famous epitome of our time honoured observation that cats have servants, but dogs just have masters.

All of the felines were well-fed and they patrolled the premises as they wished. Occasionally one or two of them would walk across a customer’s table during a meal but nobody seemed to pay any attention. All of the cats were immaculately house trained and perfectly mannered.

The food and coffee were of fine quality and the clients, seemingly, were all cat lovers. The conversation was all very cosmopolitan and undistracted.

I found the cafe very clean, cosy and well looked after. The owners and employees plainly loved pussy cats. The proprietors were all quite young and obviously educated people and they all had a good sense of humour. If you fancy a little relief from the pace of the street life and a little reminder of perhaps your childhood, try the café for lunch or just a coffee and enjoy the great simplicity of life.

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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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