A visit to Meow Parlour, New York City’s first cat cafe

Imagine you’re city-dwelling cat lover with no cats. Perhaps you’re a student living in a dorm. Or your roommate is allergic to cat dander. Or (perish the thought!) your landlord doesn’t allow pets. Even cute, quiet, purring ones.

How do you get your kitty fix? You could always mooch off a friend: “Hey, whatcha doin’ tonight? Want to hang out? Do you still have Fluffy?” You could volunteer at a shelter–a very good thing, by the way, even if you have only a little time.

Or you can plunk down a small amount of cash and sit with well-socialized cats at a cat cafe, which seem to be springing up all over the US like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

A cat keeps an eye on the New York City street scene from within Meow Parlour.

A cat that looks amazingly like my Calvin keeps an eye on the New York City street scene from within Meow Parlour.

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit New York City’s first (and currently only!) cat cafe, Meow Parlour, where I sat down on the floor and played with nearly a dozen cats. Afterward, I chatted with Emilie Legrand, one of the co-founders of the cafe.

Meow Parlour storefront

Underneath the tabletop, cats can peer through the letters.

The idea of opening up a cat cafe in Manhattan was one that Emilie and Christina Ha talked about as they worked at Christina’s bakery Macaron Parlour, a patisserie  known for its French macarons (which are an entirely separate species of pastry from the two-O macaroons).  “Cats and pastries are my two passions,” said Emilie, probably speaking for her partner and about 8 billion of the rest of us (including me.) It’s not surprising that the Kickstarter campaign for the concept met its goal in less than a day, and sold out soon after.

Cat sleeps inside one of the tables at Meow Parlour

I want one of these tables for my own cats.

One of the biggest challenges was navigating the sea of city regulations; being the first meant charting a new course through them, finding innovative ways to comply yet still make the dream come true. It was easy enough for the two partners to get the required animal handling certificates, but they couldn’t get past the health department’s rules about not having animals in an establishment that made and served food.

Cat seems comfortable in a bed at Meow Parlour.

Cat’s eye view of the table.

Realizing that there were no laws preventing people from bringing food and drink into a place where animals lived, they found the perfect work-around: open up a bakery–Meow Parlour Patisserie–close by, just around the corner. Patrons can stop and pick up coffee, tea, soups, sandwiches–and pastries–on their way to the cafe, or they can have their order delivered while they’re visiting with the cats.

Cat waits for customers to come play with him at Meow Parlour cat cafe

Waiting for customers.

The best part of Meow Parlour (other than the pastries) is that the cats are all adoptable through KittyKind, a not-for-profit, no-kill, all-volunteer cat rescue and adoption group in New York City.

For cafe cats, they choose animals who are most likely to do well in the social atmosphere, as well as ones that don’t do well in cages — the cats who get depressed trapped inside a metal box all day, and thus are often overlooked by potential adopters. Photos and brief descriptions of the cats are hung on the walls, and a Meet the Cats binder offers additional information if a visitor makes a new feline friend and wants to offer him or her a permanent home.

Photos on wall Meow Parlour

I met most of the adoptable cats. Every one a sweetheart.

As for me, even though I have four cats (and three dogs) at home, I succumbed to what Emilie called the “Snuggle Effect.” The cafe is a refuge from the craziness of everyday life in the city. “Coming here is relaxing,” she said. “People tend to speak more softly. And when they leave, they have a smile on their face.”

Here’s proof:

Susan C. Willett of Life with Dogs and Cats at Meow Parlour, with friend

I made a new friend. I walked out without him, but the smile stayed with me all day.

Below are some additional photos of the cat cafe and its inhabitants:

The entire back wall is made up of climbable bookshelves and cubbies for cats to hang out in.  Cats can also hide behind and under the wood benches if they don’t feel like being social. (Workers can reach the kitties if they need to; the benches swing open.)

The entire back wall is made up of climbable bookshelves and cubbies for cats to hang out in.

I believe that’s Squinkles lounging in the scratcher, which seems to be a favorite hang out.

There are other places to hide as well, including a safe room accessible through a cat hole, a feline-sized version of the baseboard mouse hole.

Cat sits by mousehole at Meow Parlour

In or out? A cat’s eternal question.

Or a cat can turn her back on the world, which works just as well.

A cat sleeps at Meow Parlour

Leave me alone.

All the cats get along for the most part, including these two, who were playing and wrestling , oblivious to the humans who had to walk over them.

Two cats play at Meow Parlour

It’s nice to meet friends at the cafe.

Lucky Lemon, the orange cat playing above, spent three days hiding when he first came to the cat cafe. A kind visitor spent time with him and helped him come out of his shell. He greeted me when I first got there, and we had a grand time playing Catch the Feather on the Pole; I didn’t believe it when Emilie told me he had been shy.

Lucky Lemon, a cat at Meow Parlour cat cafe in New York City.

Look at the sweet face of Lucky Lemon!

 

If you go:

  • Meow Parlour is at 46 Hester Street, New York, NY 10002. Take the F train to East Broadway, or the M9 bus to Essex and Hester Streets.
  • It’s open from 12 noon – 8 pm Thursday through Tuesday and is closed on Wednesdays “for a catnap.”
  • You must reserve a half-hour time slot using their online reservation system. Currently, Meow Parlour is booking 60 days in advance, so you need to plan ahead.
  • It also helps to follow Meow Parlour on social media; sometimes spots open up with little notice, and you can be the first to find out about it on Facebook or Twitter.
  • You may be able to extend your visit past the half hour, and pay for the extended time before you leave.
  • Adults and children over 10 (with adults accompanying them) can make appointments nearly any time. Special hours are set aside for kids under 10.
  • Each half hour is $4 for adults and children over 10; $12 for a younger child together with a chaperone, for one hour.
  • When you arrive, expect to remove your shoes and be asked to use hand sanitizer. This is to help keep the cats healthy.
  • You also will be asked to sign a waiver, and to follow a simple set of rules, such as no flash photography, no food or treats for the cats, and use only the toys provided. You may want to spend a few minutes on the website so you know what to expect.
  • Only food from Meow Parlour Patisserie is allowed in the cafe; this is to ensure that no ingredients that are toxic to cats ever enter the premises.
  • Be prepared to fall in love a dozen times. You can fill out an application to adopt any of the current residents who aren’t spoken for. Note: some of the cats that are featured in my post may ahave found forever homes.

Today, we’re participating in the Monday Mischief blog hop. Take a look at some of the great blogs below:

MondayMischief



17 Comments on "A visit to Meow Parlour, New York City’s first cat cafe"

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  1. slimdoggy says:

    Those lucky cats. Thanks for the review, I’ve been wondering what it was like.

  2. jan says:

    I hope they have great success. What a clever way to get around the health regulations.

  3. This is so awesome. I had no idea how it actually operated with the food, so clever how they are doing this. Love Dolly

  4. I am pleased they house cats who are up for adoption. Many Cat Cafes house cats already adopted. Mom L attended the grand opening of the first USA cat cafe ever…Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California. It is a totally pawsome endeavor.

  5. Ellen Pilch says:

    What a fantastic post! Thanks for all the information. I am hoping to get there sometime this year.

  6. That’s such a cool concept. Great for when you need a cuddle.

  7. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    Susan

    way jealous you got to experience this !!! but happy for you ☺; I hope this idea catches on nationwide♥

    Laura

  8. Jan K says:

    What a cool idea!! Since our cats don’t travel with us, and I always miss the animals if we do go away, I would definitely stop by a place like this (and hope to get home without a new pet).

  9. We think these cafes are the coolest idea. We hope that maybe one day, one will open in our area.

  10. How cool! Portland is getting a cat cafe soon too.

  11. Emma says:

    It is a great idea and a super neat looking place!

  12. I am so jealous you got to visit! I’ve read all about cat cafes and can’t wait to visit one someday. It’s especially wonderful that all of these cats are adoptable – what an amazing idea!

    On another note, I NEED that adorable scarf you’re wearing in the photo!! If you don’t mind my asking, where did you find it? :)

  13. This is so cool! My Mom and brother live in NYC, so I will definitely make reservations for our next trip to the Big Apple!

  14. Kitties Blue says:

    Susan, our mom is so jealous. She’s been wanting to visit New York again after about three decades of not being there. This will definitely be on her list of must sees when she does get there. Thank you so much for sharing. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  15. I’ve never heard of such a place. Sounds cool

  16. Sandy says:

    What a wonderful place – I’m so jealous that you got to visit! A cat cafe has opened up in my area (Cat Town in Oakland, CA), but I haven’t had a chance to visit yet.

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