A tea that comes with a cat: Chapristea in Toulouse

Natacha Costa | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Through a big shop window, three cats are staring at me, although, I admit, less curiously than me staring at them. I was about to pass by it as by many other shop windows in Toulouse, but after realising there was something alive in that particular shop window, I made two steps back to check it out again. I look above and read - Chapristea. Quickly I realize - it’s a place I have always wanted to visit - it’s a cat café, a tea salon that is at the same time a home to several cats. It's a place where a tea comes - with a cat!

Cat people will understand - that moment all my plans for the day change and I go for my first tea in the fluffy company of Calvin, Madison, Marco, and others. There are eight tenants at Chapristea at that moment. The dominant Merlin, cuddly Madison, brothers Mozart and Marco that are either fighting or hugging, Malacca and Daliane, sisters that collaborate on many mischiefs, there is also beautiful Calvin who is deaf, but still understands you, lovely ginger Nounouss who will fall asleep easily on the top of your backpack. Well, if you are lucky.

Besides wanting to pet them all, I also have many questions in my mind. Who are these cats? Where do they come from? Are they gonna live here forever? While cuddling Nounouss, I read about the café - most of the cats were adopted from shelters, as Chapristea works closely with Le Chat Libre de Toulouse association. The owner decided to share his passion for cats, and this seemed to him as a perfect way to do it. Although it looks like they were chosen for Chapristea based on how beautiful they are, I am explained that the cats are selected according to their ability to live together with many other cats, and as well, on how sociable towards people they are. While I am sipping my tea, Malacca is performing some Indiana Jones moves, climbing over the air conditioning - the highest possible point inside the café. Soon after, her sister Daliane follows me shamelessly to the toilet and there makes a real mess scattering around all the paper napkins. Yes, it’s one fun tea salon.

Why would cats live in a café, some of you may ask. For me, as a cat person, it’s obvious. What can be more relaxing than cuddling a cat while sipping your tea? Or what can be more amusing while watching a bunch of cats just being themselves in a space that is specially designed for their well being? Now, thinking about the cats - they are happy about living indoors. So, what could be a more suitable place than this one? It is full of shelves appropriate for climbing, hidden corners for them to ignore you when they feel like, a vet visits them regularly, and they don’t need to worry about food. Plus, everyone who comes loves them. To guarantee that the cats are the bosses of the place, the managers of Chapristea set up some simple rules to be followed in the café. No one can wake up a sleeping cat, run after a cat, take photos with a flash on, give food to them, etc.

Cats bossing around a café? How did this even happen, you may ask. Wise Asian people first came up with this concept. They call it Neko café (Neko means cat in Japanese) and it was first established in 1998 in Tapei, Taiwan. Japanese tourists got crazy about it and soon after the first Japanese Neko Café opens in Osaka. The popularity of the concept has grown rapidly in this country which now has more than a hundred establishments. The Western version of Japanese Neko was born in Vienna, Austria in 2012. The café offers table service drinks, pastries and snacks. It quickly became a success and inspired Neko cafés in Paris and London. The enthusiasm around the concept has been growing since. In London’s Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium you have to book for up to 6 months in advance, and on the day of the opening in Paris over 300 people were cuing to have their drink in the Café des Chats. Today, these cafés exist in over 30 countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Mexico, China, Austalia, Brazil, USA, Canada... Chapristea opened in May 2016.

And, do they serve food? is a question I often hear (goes with raising an eyebrow) when I talk about Chapristea. Yes, they do. But also, they ask all the humans entering the café to disinfect their hands with sanitizer. Cats of Chapristea are clean already. And the place even smells nicely. Obviously, there are many requirements one needs to fulfil in order to run a café like this one, and in here they have all been taken care of. All of this said, even if a cup of tea with cats is not your cup of tea… you should give it a try. In my case, even after taking one hundred photos and videos of its residents, getting slightly bitten but also given a lot of tenderness, it is difficult to leave Chapristea. While paying for my tea, I look back one more time at the last cat who came to me, Maddison, but in fact he already found another human to admire him. Oh, never mind. I will come again anyway. A tea that comes with a cat is always a prrrrrfect idea.

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