Cat Cafés Are About As Awesome As They Sound

Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet
Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet

Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a kitten. Partly, I like the idea of being loved unconditionally by an adorable creature that won’t judge me if I eat chocolate cake for breakfast, or cry during a campy Lifetime movie. I also like the idea of heading home after a trying day knowing that I can look forward to the company of a relatively independent, sophisticated animal friend whose very presence will surely remind me that my troubles are downright silly since all that really matters in life is cuddling.

Cats are kind without being needy. Dignified. They’re also relatively quiet, and operate on self-cleaning mode. In other words, they’re better than dogs.

That’s right. It’s about time I confessed that I do not like dogs. I’ve kept this information to myself for a while, because admitting lack of affection for man’s smelly, slobbery “best friend” never goes over well. You might as well announce that you’re a homicidal maniac, or that you hunt baby seals in your spare time. To support the long-running ruse that I can tolerate the company of canines, I’ve gone so far as to offer dog-sitting services to friends in the past. At 33, however, after building a career on my willingness to over-share (it’s not often a gal owns up to her romantic involvement with a married man), it’s about time I came clean on the pet front. No dogs for me, thank you very much! Hate me if you want, but, just like Taylor Swift, I’m a cat person.

Back to the prospect of welcoming a cat into my home. The problem is, unless you’re a ludicrously wealthy Wall Streeter or a chart-topping pop musician, it’s damn near impossible to afford more than a small apartment in New York City. And no matter how cuddle deprived or lonely we New Yorkers may feel, it’s logistically difficult to incorporate a litter box into a compact living space.

Photo by Christa Hamilton Photography
Photo by Christa Hamilton Photography

On top of the accommodations predicament, I have to wonder if my sudden kitty yearning correlates too closely with the declining health of my childhood cat, Minou, who’s lived at my parents’ house in Connecticut for the last 20 years. Minou can barely lick her fur free from dreadlocked clumps because her limbs are so devastatingly arthritic and her grooming maneuvers are thus limited. She’s also given to frequent barfing, and to peeing and pooping wherever she pleases. I’ve loved Minou dearly since the first night she slept in a blanket lined shoebox alongside my bed. I’m not ready for Minou to be dead. But I’m probably not really ready to own a pet, either, whether or not it wears a leash or requires regular walking.

So when I heard about Meow Parlour, a special café in downtown Manhattan where you can drink coffee or tea and eat feline shaped pastries in a tranquil environment populated by a dozen or so cats—each handpicked for friendliness by Kitty Kind — it seemed as if the establishment had been built just for me. Fashioned after the popular cat cafés of Japan (strict landlords and small living spaces make pet ownership tricky there too), Meow Parlour is designed as an oasis for felines and those who love them—especially those who want to love them for a given amount of time on a scheduled day, and then return to their pet-free dwelling.

Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet
Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet

Still, I had some reservations. How would the place smell? Would the cats be outgoing, or would they spend most of their time cowering in corners? Would the animals automatically resent customers, or clamor for their attention? What kind of people would the other patrons be?

Upon entering Meow Parlour, however, I was soothed by the cozy, living room like environs, fresh air, and, of course, the presence of countless majestic furballs. With plenty of comfy cushions lining the floor for humans and numerous tiny sleeping pods spread throughout, everyone’s needs seemed to be accounted for. Both the two- and four-legged could feel right at home.

Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet
Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet

After checking in and removing my shoes and coat, I scoured the wall featuring photographs of cats and their corresponding “purrsonality” traits. Although Meow Parlour is booked solid for the next several months, it was pleasantly under-populated when I visited since strict headcount limits are abided for the sake of not freaking out the animals. According to a male staffer (owns two cats, wants more) charged with managing the main area, the newer cats take a few days to warm up to their surroundings. A box of toys provides an easy way to coax these more timid kitties into playful get-to-know-you sessions. Over the course of an hour, I took the opportunity to admire each animal and to stroke those who seemed open to it. I was nipped once by a three-legged cat, but those missing limbs deserve quick forgiveness, right?

Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet
Photo provided by Mélanie Berliet

Meow Parlour let me play cat lady for an hour so I could get my feline fix in an economically sensible way with minimal commitment. In addition to laundry, driving, and cooking, enjoying the company of cats is now something you can outsource easily in New York City—for a price, of course. Unfortunately for the puppy worshiping set, I doubt anyone could create an equally peaceful environment featuring that other frequently domesticated critter. TC mark

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