Parisians Prepare for a Catty Coffee Break
That anyway is the idea behind the latest Japanese import opening mid-September in the Marais district of central Paris thanks to the efforts of Margaux Gandelon, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, who is convinced there is a market for quality moggy time rented in exchange for a consommation minimum in what she bills as a tea room or café — anything in fact but a cat house.
She does however have some detractors. Among them the 60’s film star and animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot. Approached about the plans Christophe Marie, a vet with the Bardot Foundation in Paris, told Agence France Presse: “This is like turning cats into toy teddy bears. Cats do not necessarily want to be groped by customers in a bar” . Madame Gandelon is non-plussed however, “we have taken all necessary health, safety and vetinarary precautions,” she insists.
According to a report in Nouvel Observateur the capital’s first “cat café” works on the basis that cat purring offers “therapeutic benefits against stress, insomnia or anxiety”. Cute kittens, it goes on, will be invited to your table while you take coffee or eat your lunch.
Petting, playing and stroking these feline geishas as they brush against your legs, helps to soothe away stress, or so the Japanese originators claim. For “cat bars” or “cat cafés” have been popular in Japan since the late 90s and today there are about 100 such catteries deploying local pussies for their de-stressing properties. Margaux Gandelon believes hers will be the first to open in Europe however.
She recently signed a lease on 130 m2 of premises where purry-furry therapeutics will be blended with coffee and meals in what she describes as “a tea room, a place for rest and relaxation around cats”. She says the Café des Chats will have an organic menu, cosy decor, soft lighting and noise reduction devices, everything to ensure the cats, and their customers are in a comfortable Zen environment. The entrepreneur has identified several cat refuges in the city which will supply her with around a dozen “employees” and insists her “cats will be made to feel entirely at home, while the customers who come along, are here to pay them a visit”. Clients can also “interact” with tomcats in a special space set aside for playing with the male of the species.
Nouvel Observateur notes that in Japan recently a number of cat bars have been forced to close in the evening to protect their “employees” from overexposure.
Margaux Gandelon insists she has adapted the Japanese concept to the West and to France: “We are not opening a zoo, unlike in Japan there will be no right of entry into the Parisian cafe, only as a consumer will you be able to approach a cat.”
The onetime political science student, who was inspired after reading an article about Neko cafés in Japan, has done her market research and believes there is a largely feminine clientele for her idea — “active young women who want to relax after work, for example.”
She claims she already has a core of supporters and future clients for her plan to enable people to reduce stress by petting and interacting with purring cats, thanks to her fund-raising campaign on the Internet which brought in more than 40,000 euros via the Indiegogo crowd funding platform. More than 600 people made donations or reserved a place at the future cat table, she says.
She also believes that with cats an enduring theme on the internet – see for instance “lolcats” — she can expect to attract clients from campaigns on the web and through social media such as Facebook and Twitter: “Watching amusing cat videos on the internet and owning one for real are two entirely different things, this project is not inspired by the kawai fashion (Japanese pop culture) rather we see ourselves as being the anti-dote to Hello Kitty! “
Last word , don’t try taking your feline pet along with you to make friends, “they will be barred at the door”, she says firmly. Ah so no cat-dating then. Well perhaps with time things may change after all Parisian doggie-dating has proved a huge success.
Story: Ken Pottinger
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