The Cat Cafes of New York City

 Austin from Koneko

Austin from Koneko

New York City is one of the world’s biggest tourist draws, with storied attractions and inspiration around every corner. Now, there is another reason to visit the Big Apple- its wonderful cat cafes.

Ranging from posh and hip to down-to-earth and heartwarming, the cat cafes of New York all feature rescue cats, which makes visiting not only fun, but also makes a difference.

The Neighbor’s Cat visited New York’s cat cafes in December, 2017.

Brooklyn Cat Cafe

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We've all heard the cliches about the people of different states.  Minnesotans (where I'm from) are nice while New Yorkers are rude, uptight and impatient, but after a visit to Brooklyn Cat Cafe you might question how that stereotype ever came to be.

We visited the cafe late on a Sunday afternoon.  Normally, we schedule time outside of busy weekend hours for maximum kitty interaction, but alas, our visit to NYC was short and Sunday it was.

Indeed, it was packed, but the kind host greeted us with a smile and suggested we try again in 30 minutes.  We popped into Espresso Me, a block down Atlantic, for a quick cup of joe before heading back, which worked well since the cafe's snack options are limited.  They don't mind if you bring your own coffee, though, so keep that in mind!

As we arrived, a large group of people exited and after signing the waiver and sanitizing our hands, we entered kitty heaven.

The space is small, but clean, cozy and chilled out with plenty of comfy couches for kitty cuddles.  Speaking of cats, there were forty felines in residence when we visited, courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition.  Most of them were so friendly and well-socialized, it was hard to believe many had heart-breaking back stories, including a kitten with paralysis in her back legs.  Despite this challenge, she wasn't letting it stop her, scooting around with her front paws and inspiring everyone in the room.

As of December, Brooklyn Cat Cafe had only been open for 18 months, but in that time had found forever homes for over 400 cats including several rescues from Florida and Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricanes there.  Congratulations everyone, that is incredible!!

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While I was chatting with the staff about the cats, I found myself in awe of them.  BCC has some of the most caring volunteers, so warm and welcoming, that the atmosphere feels like a giant hug.  Check out the smiling lady in the first photo above.  That's the essence of Brooklyn Cat Cafe- a happy place with happy people.    

Honestly, it was hard to decide who was sweeter- the staff or the cats!  

Bidding our final farewells with promises to return and stay in touch, it reminded me of goodbyes I've shared with fellow travelers during the last two years on the road where we have shared some incredible experiences, bonded, and then... gone.   It's not your stereotypical cat cafe and that's what makes it special. 

Forget Minnesota Nice and say hello to New York Nice.

Koneko

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Before Koneko, I didn't know a cat cafe could be so cool.

It was a relatively quiet Monday morning on the Lower East Side of New York when I arrived for my 11:00 am appointment.  Inside the cafe, it was also quiet with one patron drinking coffee in the corner while tapping away at his laptop.  I surveyed the scene and admired what I saw.  Koneko's cafe space is spare and inviting featuring a large coffee bar and wall of tables, lined with tidy rows of chairs.  The cattery is cleverly separated from the cafe by a glass partition and double doors. 

I was greeted by the host who informed me I would be the only person in the cattery for the 11:00 am time slot and I was thrilled that I would be able to play with all the kitties unimpeded.  I ordered a Stumptown drip coffee in a covered to-go cup which is allowed in the cat room.  

Inside the cattery, Japanese-style minimalism makes Koneko one of the hippest cat cafes out there.  The aesthetic of the upstairs space is sleek with lots of polished concrete and angles, but balanced nicely by soft lighting, warm wood and bright red cushions.  Downstairs is cozy and full of comfortable couches to hang with the kitties.  There is even a spacious outdoor 'catio'!

Happily, the environment is also functional for felines, with an abundance of elevated wall perches, cat trees and cat flap leading to the catio.  However, what impressed me the most was the cafe's zen-like atmosphere, a model of peace and calm that is a welcome respite in the midst of the chaos that is NYC.

How cool is that?

The cats are rescues courtesy of the superheroes at Anjellicle Cats Rescue, which place 'at risk' cats (those scheduled to be euthanized) with Koneko.  The cafe can accommodate up to 20 furballs, although I don't believe there were that many during my visit.  However, the kitties in residence were adorably social, curious and playful, chasing strings and posing for photos like seasoned models.  Austin, a shy but handsome tabby caught my eye and promptly stole my heart.

I found the Koneko team to be extremely approachable and friendly.  Patty, a cattery staffer and I had a wonderful conversation about cat cafes, rescuing kitties and NYC in general.  Thanks Patty, you rock!  

As I departed, I chatted with the barista while I purchased a sticker (one of the coolest logos ever) and checked out the menu.  If I hadn't been off to Katz's Delicatessen, I would have tried one of their Japanese snacks, like okonomiyaki because if the coffee is any indicator, I know it would have been delicious.

At $20 per hour, this is the most I've seen charged in a cat cafe, but considering this is some of the most expensive real estate on earth and the facility is large and top-notch, it's justifiable.  Besides, they have found forever homes for over 300 kitties since opening two years ago, so any cat cafe that does that much good to help felines in need is cool in my book.

Meow Parlour

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I usually end up with a favorite feline in every cat cafe I visit, but sometimes I fall in love so hard, I find myself wanting to take that special kitty home right there on the spot.

Such was the case with Calia at Meow Parlour.

However, as a full-time traveler, I don't have a home.  Such is the paradox of being a kitty loving cat cafe reviewer that spends most of her free time meeting adorable and adoptable cats.  

Meow Parlour was the first in NYC and created a non-profit division to manage the sourcing and adopting of rescued cats called Meow Parlour Cats.  They have been very successful finding forever homes for over 220 cats as of December, 2017. 

The day of my visit, 13 cats were in residence, most new to the cafe.  They usually house between 8-15 felines.  

Located in Manhattan's Lower East Side, the cafe is next door to Macaron Parlour, owned by same person.  Lucky for patrons, the cafe serves these delectable treats along with Counter Culture coffee, both of which I enjoyed immensely. 

The facility focuses on feline satisfaction with lots of cat trees, a wall of shelves with cat beds and my favorite, small hexagonal tables with cushioned interiors and glass tops allowing you to see the sleeping kitties inside.  The cafe cleverly refers to their cat friendly set-up as 'catified', which I love and am going to steal with pride from now on.

Speaking of cats, I found the residents of Meow Parlour to have sweet and friendly dispositions including Valentina, a lovable black shorthair, Patches, a shy gray and white, and my favorite, Calia, an adorable Calico.  I didn't come across Calia until the very end, when a staff member pulled back a display of t-shirts to reveal my precious girl.  I rubbed around her head to her approving purrs but the love-at-first-sight clincher was the moment she looked up with eyes that said 'Take me home'

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Insert crying emoji here.

I'd like to give a shout-out to the team at Meow Parlour for offering a warm welcome, answering all of my questions and introducing me to Calia.  

With charming cats, delicious treats and a variety of activities, including designated children's hours, you'll find many reasons to fall in love with Meow Parlour.  Prioritize a visit asap!

The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafes, cat travel and rescue/adoption.  She is visiting every cat café in the world, 198 in 29 countries so far!   Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.