I consider myself more of a dog person, but I must admit cats intrigue me (and millions of other people if the excessive amount of cat videos on Youtube is any indication). For the most part, they act like mini aloof dictators who barely seem to register their human servants who cater to their every whim. So it should come as no surprise that these sneaky felines have managed to persuade their human subjects to extend their servitude even further by inspiring them to open cat cafes around the world.
Cat cafes have been around for about a decade but only recently have they been making waves in the United States. Cat cafes emerged in the mid-2000s in Asia, becoming extremely popular in cat-obsessed Japan, which isn’t all that surprising considering it is the birthplace of Hello Kitty. The trend eventually made its way to North America’s shores with the first cat cafe, Cat Town Cafe, opening in Oakland, CA last fall. Not to be outdone by the West Coast, New York City’s first cat cafe, Meow Parlour, opened in December. It generated quite a lot of press since the cafe is the first of its kind in the five boroughs.
Cats of Meow Parlour.
I was curious about the cafe due to all the press coverage and interested in checking it out. However, I was put off by the fact that the reservations on the website seemed booked weeks in advance. When my friend Julia was in town a few months ago, she revealed to me her interest in opening up her own cat cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she currently lives. We decided to risk the reservations policy and show up on a Friday evening, hoping they’d take us in as walk-ins (which they do accept if people cancel their reservations or don’t show up).
Tucked away in the Lower East Side, Meow Parlour actually has two separate locations: one space where the cats live and the other space which is the actual cafe space where you can purchase food and drinks. Due to NYC Department of Health regulations, the cats must be kept in a separate area from where the food is made. The patisserie is just around the corner from the cats’ living space but we didn’t even bother going to the cafe. We headed straight for the cats. And as luck would have it, they took us in as walk-ins! However as walk-ins, we didn’t have the option to pay for a half hour so we had to pay for the full hour which was $8 (which was fine by us).
Kitty stare down.
You can actually order food and drinks from the cat area and have it delivered directly to you from the patisserie which is what we ended up doing. The menu’s offerings are rather limited, but then people don’t really come here for the food. They come to see and play with the cats!
Meow Parlour has partnered with KittyKind, a New York City based cat rescue organization, which means all the cats you see roaming around are up for adoption. Partnering with cat rescue groups has become the norm with cat cafes in the US–I am not entirely sure they do this in Japan too. And it seems Meow Parlour has been rather successful at placing their cats in forever homes.
I can’t remember off the top of my head how many cats there were but I’m estimating there were about 8-12 kitties when Julia and I went. Since it was late in the day, the cats were pretty active, walking around and sort of interacting with visitors (these are cats we are talking about). There are toys available for customers to play with the cats, though depending on their mood they may or may not indulge you. They did seem a bit weary from people trying to get them to play and invading their space. Nonetheless, there were a few that were especially fans of what I dubbed the “fishing pole toy” which you can see Julia using in the picture below.
As you can see from the pictures, the layout of the kitty area of Meow Parlour adheres to a minimalist yet cozy aesthetic. The space was clearly designed with cats in mind, providing plenty of cubbyholes and nooks and crannies for the cats to curl up and hide in. The cats definitely took advantage of these hideaways while I was there when they grew tired of visitors pestering them to play (to be clear, I never saw anybody mistreat the cats but some customers clearly couldn’t take a hint when the cats wanted to be left alone. More on this below). When the cafe closes for the night, the cats are brought to the back room where they each have an assigned cage to sleep in.
You probably noticed we are all barefoot in the pictures. Meow Parlour requires visitors to take off their shoes before playing with the cats, most likely for the cats’ safety (so make sure to bring socks). I didn’t mind though, it made me feel like I was hanging out in a friend’s living room drinking tea, only I happened to be surrounded by about ten cats. It was such a relaxing way to end the day, it felt like I had found a mini feline oasis, such a welcome respite from the chaotic energy of Manhattan.
My one complaint is that some of the cats were clearly overwhelmed by the attention of clueless visitors who didn’t seem to understand that some cats wanted a break from playing and human interaction. I wish the staff had intervened more and explained to them to leave the cats alone. I didn’t get a ton of cat playtime because other customers were vying for the cats’ attention, it almost felt like a competition at times. I didn’t mind too much since as I stated above, I am more of a dog person. But some people were really insistent on trying to get cats to play who were clearly in no mood to engage with humans and this was a little annoying.
I ended up with a lot of pictures of this white cat because he was one of the most outgoing. There is an orange cat inside the cardboard ice cream truck beneath him!
So is it worth your time to stop by and see the kitties? I would say yes if you’re a a cat lover who is a bit jaded with New York City and you’re looking for something different to do. I enjoyed my time with the cats, even if I didn’t get to play with them too much. However if you’re coming to NYC for the first time or still getting to know the city, I would suggest you skip Meow Parlour unless you’re dying to go to a cat cafe. You also need to make a reservation for a time slot on Meow Parlour’s website, which I recommend you do unless you plan on stopping in at the very end of the day in the evening like I did as a walk-in.
And if you’re mourning the lack of a cat cafe in your area, fear not! Aside from Cat Town Cafe in California and Meow Parlor in NYC, KitTea is set to open in San Francisco next week, there is the Denver Cat Company in Denver, Colorado, Cafe des Chats and Cafe Chat L’heureux in Montreal, Quebec, and Purrington’s Cat Lounge in Portland, Oregon to name just a few. There are plans for cat cafes to open in DC (Crumbs & Whiskers), Los Angeles (The Catfe), Houston, Austin (The Blue Cat Cafe), and even Providence, Rhode Island (The Purrfect Cup). Chances are a cat cafe will be coming near you sooner than you think!
My favorite thing about all these cat cafes popping up all over the place are the names. Some of them are incredibly cute and creative! I had fun suggesting names to Julia for her future cat cafe she hopes to open in Albuquerque soon. Out of all the ones I suggested, I really liked my “Gatos y Libros” which I thought sounded appropriate for New Mexico.
Have you ever been to a cat cafe? Do you agree there should be one for dogs too??
Fore more information about Meow Parlor, you can check out visiting hours and how to book a reservation here.
Soon to be future owner of a cat cafe in Albuquerque, NM!