The Cat Cafes of France, Part I

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France is famed for fashion, food... and felines? 

After visiting ten French cat cafes over two weeks in November 2017, I am convinced that France's furballs need to be added to the 'things the French do well' list.  So sleek, so chic, surely the term 'catwalk' must have originated here. 

But if you think the kitties are the sole reason to visit France's cat cafes, you would be wrong.  How about the chance to sample gourmet cuisine in an elegant environment that Vogue would deem 'French-girl-cool'?  

Leave it to the French to take the cat cafe concept and elevate it from cute & cuddly to stylish & sophisticated. 

Meow-stache: Cafe Moustache

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The day had started very early when I boarded a bus in Paris for the two hour ride to Rouen that Sunday morning in November.  By the time I returned that night, I had experienced a magical day that included some fabulous French felines. 

When I arrived in Rouen mid-morning, I was able to take a leisurely stroll across the Seine river into the old city.  I had certainly heard of Rouen, the capital of Normandy and it's famed cathedral (a favorite subject of Impressionist Claude Monet), but was gobsmacked by the large expanse of medieval half-timbered houses.  For the next hour, I took dozens of photos and soaked in the history.

By the time I arrived at Cafe Moustache, I was a bit chilly and in need of a cup of tea.  Luckily, I was able to secure one of the nine seating areas (they do not accept reservations) even though I arrived shortly after the 11 am opening.  The cafe has been very successful and I can see why- the atmosphere is cheerful, lovely and inviting, full of feline-friendly spaces and cozy nooks for their human admirers.  

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The cafe has partnered with Felin' Possible 76 for rescued cats.  They sponsor between five and seven at one time, making sure they have plenty of love and care until they are adopted.  Some of the kitties were quite social, going from table to table for ear scratches, while others were a bit shy, still learning to trust again.

I was impressed by the cafe's commitment to the cats welfare and that they sponsor cats that might not catch the attention of a prospective adopter due to a missing eye or leg.  Balou, an eight year old black and white boy is one such cat.   He only has three legs and has suffered abuse in the past, but it hasn't prevented him from living a full life, receiving much adoration from the cafe's patrons.  The day I visited, he posed for photos like a supermodel!  

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Food-wise, the cafe has a large selection of hot and cold beverages, plus pastries and a few paninis.  I had a cup of tea and muffin, both of which were good quality.  

I was not able to speak directly with the cafe's founders, Julia and Constance, however their website provided a lot of insight as to their approach and it's clear they have been both thoughtful and thorough they have been in researching and executing their vision.  Cafe Moustache offers a pleasant, feline-focused experience that in combination with the historic city of Rouen, makes for a wonderful day trip from Paris.

For complete cafe details, click here.

Cat Cafe Evolution: Le Darwin

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Cat cafes are not often known for the food served to humans.  

It's understandable if you think about it.  Cats should be the first and foremost priority with a nice atmosphere and cup of coffee running a distant second.  But France has proven that their cat cafes not only deliver on the felines, but also gourmet food experiences. 

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Considering the foodie culture, that might not come as a complete surprise.  I had amazing meals in NantesCaen and Reims, but Le Darwin, in Troyes stands out as a culinary masterpiece. 

Troyes, a 1.5 hour train ride from Paris, is an historic city known for medieval half timbered buildings and narrow, cobbled streets.  I'm hoping it will soon be famed for its top-notch cat cafe. 

Le Darwin is located in an attractive setting, a square next to a Basilique Saint-Urbain that I admired as I arrived shortly after the 11 am opening time.  When the sign on the door indicated that was delayed noon, I walked around and took in the sights, which is a bonus of being in France; there is never a shortage of interesting things to gaze upon.

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I returned just after noon to a warm welcome from the host.  As I was seated, we communicated using a little bit of French (me) and a little bit of English (the host) as our mutual love of cats seemed to transcend the language barrier.

Looking over the menu, there was an impressive selection of delicious-sounding options. While I was deciding, the cats began to make their way over and within a minute I was in love.  There are nine felines in residence, all available for adoption sans two 'house cats' Mika & Maya.  The kitties, (including a black short-hair, gorgeous green-eyed tabby and a Siamese mix named Fripouille) took turns on my lap for ear scratches and cuddles which I happily delivered in between lunch courses.  I learned that since the cafe's opening in January, 2017, they have successfully adopted 12 cats.  

Normally, I prefer to gush about kitties, but oh my goodness, the food here was amazing!  The amuse bouche was a cold garlic sauce topped with croutons and radish while my main, an Oeuf frite (soft boiled egg coated in crumbs and fried, like a Scotch egg) topped with bacon was divine perfection.  

For dessert I indulged in a crusty almond cupcake split in two and topped with a dense white chocolate frosting and mango sauce, plus a side of icy lemon sorbet adorned with bits of salt, merengue and candied lemon peel.  It was very sweet but nicely balanced by the citrus and various textures.  

All of this epicurean delight was also incredibly good value with two coffees, entree and dessert totaling less than €15.   

If the cats and food aren't enough to tempt you, the space is also lovely, separated into three areas including the main bar, dining room and coffee nook.  The ambience is comfortable and cozy set to a soundtrack of upbeat, electro-pop music.

My visit to Le Darwin excelled in all areas and whether you are a cat lover or gourmand, I'm confident a visit to Troyes would be a highlight of any trip to France.  

For complete cafe details, click here.

Chat Historique: Au Chat Perché

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Caen is a lovely port city in lower Normandy, approximately nine miles inland from the English Channel and 35 minutes from Omaha Beach (aka Normandy Beach). It's an historic city, famed as the burial site of William the Conquerer. 

It is fitting that Au Chat Perché (aka 'the perched cat') evokes the past by occupying a 17th century building, part of old hotel complex.   The space has been modernized, yet sensitively retains the features that make it significant and unique.  The decor is austere and chic, yet also manages to be cozy!

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There were five cats in residence the day I visited including three playful kittens that wrestled each other and entertained the patrons.  The other cats curiously inspected patrons and, at times, jumped into open laps for cuddles.  I was especially taken with Gordon, a black cat with a handsome face and sweet disposition.

According to Cyreac, the cafe is in partnership with La Compagnie des Chats Sans Maître, an association which provides the rescue cats.  Despite only being open for a short time (since September), the cafe has already found permanent homes for sixteen felines! 

Au Chat Perché is a family affair as Cyreac's wife Severine is the chef.  She specializes in vegetarian dishes and so I ordered the plat du jour, a delicious lentil veggie burger served with curried carrots, rice and salad, plus a pot of steaming hot tea.  It was an outstanding meal!

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Even though it was very busy on the Saturday I visited, Cyreac was a kind and friendly host, and gracious to answer all my questions in English as (sadly) I can only say please and thank you in French.  Merci beaucoup!

With its cool atmosphere, sweet kitties, delicious food and friendly hosts, Au Chat Perché definitely stands out as memorable and an easy two hour train from Paris St. Lazare station.

For complete cafe details, click here.

Chat-tastic:  Le Chat Puccino

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It's easy to fall in love at Le Chat Puccino.

Of course, the sweet kitties are the primary heart stealers, but other contributors include the cute and cozy atmosphere of the cafe plus fun touches, like coffee cups adorned with cats dressed in French Navy (aka Breton or Marinière) shirts.  

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Then there is infatuation-inducing city of Rennes itself.  The capital of Brittany is famed for a well-preserved historic district filled medieval half-timbered buildings that now house adorable shops, as well as galettes, a savory crepe made from buckwheat. 

It's possible to make a day trip from Paris (I did), but after visiting both Rennes and nearby Nantes, I highly recommend combining cat cafe stops with a bigger, broader tour of Brittany.  The entire area is physically stunning, rich in cultural tradition and filled with culinary and shopping delights.  

At the center of all there is to see and do is Le Chat Puccino.  Sophie, the gracious owner, opened her cafe in August, 2016 on a charming street adjacent to the historic district and quayside canals of the River Vilaine.  Inside, she has created a lovely environment with classic style, soft music and lots of natural light from the large storefront windows.  I was lucky to spend some time with her visiting about her experiences (in English, merci beaucoup!!).

Le Chat Puccino features rescued cats available for adoption.  There were four during my visit, but Sophie indicated that she was waiting on three more to arrive shortly.  In addition to an adorable Tabby kitten and Jolene, Sophie's own gorgeous queen-of-the-house Tortie (not for adoption), my favorite cat (who has since found her permanent home!) was Lena, a black and white short haired girl that cuddled with me at length. 

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There is also a full menu, and while I initially sipped a mocha, after watching the amazing food being delivered to visitors during the lunch hour, decided to order a toastie with side salad, followed by an espresso.  Delicious!

53It was sad to leave, but soon found myself entertained by a late afternoon spent shopping and sipping wine before I caught the train back to Paris.

After such an outstanding day (truly one of the best I had during my two weeks in France) I strongly encourage you to make your way to Brittany, Rennes and Le Chat Puccino.  Go ahead, fall in love for yourself!

For complete cafe details, click here.

The Neighbor’s Cat is a comprehensive global cat cafe resource with first-hand reviews, entertaining articles and an extensive photo gallery of the cutest cats on the planet.  On a quest to visit every cat cafe (155 in 24 countries so far) in the world.  We are passionate about cat travel and raising awareness for rescue and adoption.