New York City’s gone cat crazy. The town has whole-heartedly embraced the Japanese concept of the “cat café” and the kitty- and kiddie-friendly spots are opening around NYC faster than you can say “Meow.” (One, as recently as last week!) Visiting the cafes — where all the feline residents are up for adoption — is not only a thrill for the little ones, it’s a way to help socialize the cats and support small animal shelters. So what are you waiting for? There are purring cats to be petted!
Note: These cafés welcome walk-in customers, but for guaranteed quality kitty time, make a reservation online or by phone.
Little Lions is a slick space that opened in February and has already found more than 20 cats their forever homes.
All visitors must check in at the teahouse next door, which is full of cat-themed trinkets and a wide selection of delicious treats from scones to frittatas. Teahouse patrons can watch the kitties play through a large window that looks into the cafe space — which incidentally, is the key to enjoying the experience if you’re allergic and the rest of the family wants to pay the cats a visit. (Customers are also welcome to grab a snack from the teahouse and bring it into the cafe.)
The Cat Café
The cafe is large with plenty of climbing and hiding spaces, and for the most part, the cats are friendly and laid-back. Lots of comfortable couches and chairs are arranged around tables, so you really can just come in and eat at a table while your kids play with the cats. Some cats are more willing to play than others, but with 12 to 15 cats occupying the space at a time, there’s sure to be at least one cat who will win your kid’s heart.
When to Go With Kids
Children are welcome on weekends from 10 to noon, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5. No more than 15 people can reserve at one time so don’t worry about it getting too crowded. But if you’re looking for a more intimate setting, opt for the weekdays when the place doesn’t get as busy. Another weekday bonus: every Thursday at 4:30, Little Lions hosts a half hour cat-themed reading circle. And if your child is over 9, he or she is welcome to join the regularly-scheduled movie nights; special kiddie movie nights are scheduled on occasion as well.
If your kids just want to play with the cats, there’s a wall of toys to choose from. Cat-themed books and toys are placed throughout the cafe (all of which are available for sale), and the kids will dig the adorable free cat ear headbands.
Groups & Parties
If you’ve got a large group of 15 or more you can book the entire space, and yes, Little Lions does birthday parties, but all guests must be age 8 or older.
Little Lions has it all: caring staff, a great space, and sweet cats. Just wait a bit before you bring your baby in: minimum age requirement is 3 years old (for the safety of everyone involved).
$11 per person
Wed. & Thurs. 3-5 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
40 Grand St.
Brooklyn Cat Cafe
After a successful trial run as a temporary cat cafe in Fort Greene, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe is back and this time it’s here to stay. The cafe is run entirely by volunteers and works in conjunction with the Brooklyn Bridge Welfare Coalition to find its wonderful cats.
Walking into the cafe feels like walking into someone’s living room. Comfy couches line the walls, and an activity nook makes a perfect place for cats and kids to bond. Pre-packaged treats are available for purchase with plenty of vegan and vegetarian treats on hand, but the area has no shortage of options when it comes to food.
Unlike most other cat cafes, there are no designated kid times: children of any age are welcome any time the space is open. There isn’t much wiggle room, so kids can get up close and personal with the cats with a fun assortment of laser pointers and cat toys. Before you leave, help your kids peek into the enclosed glass space in the front, where a mother and her nursing babies are currently housed.
Watch the calendar for children’s events, like the upcoming cat masks craft day for 3 to 5-year-olds on May 21. (The cafe is also looking into ways interested older kids ages 12 and up can volunteer and help out.)
As this cafe is so young, the logistics are still being worked out, but chances are the space will get more crowded on weekends. Although the cafe is large, it’s narrow so leave the stroller at home if you can, and head straight for the back rug where the kitties love to play.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe has some of the friendliest kitties, chosen lovingly by volunteers who know their way around cats. If you find it hard to walk away from these delightfully playful kitties, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe handles all adoptions directly. If you do decide to adopt, the cafe will help you out with a cat food care package and a few veterinarians who’ll throw in a discount.
Brooklyn Cat Cafe
$5 per person, per half hour
Wed.-Fri. 3-7 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
149 Atlantic Ave.
photo: Koneko Cat Cafe
Koneko Cat Café
One of the pioneers in the NYC cat café scene (they claim to be the first cat café in the country!), the Lower East Side’s Koneko prides itself on having not one, not two, but three kid-friendly “Cattery” spaces, including an outdoor “Catio” — the only space of its kind in the U.S.
A clean and bright space, you can expect both sweet and savory Japanese eats here, as well as coffees, teas, and grown-up drinks ranging from wine to beer to sake and sparkling.
Kids are welcome any time, but an especially fun time to drop by is on Wednesday the official “Kids Day”, when lots of other young people are enjoying the feline friends. Make reservations for your visit online here.
Events & Parties
Koneko hosts multiple events throughout the month, and recently launched Kiddycat Party Packages. So, yes, if you have a cat-crazy kid, you can host a birthday party here. A starter party package for a minimum of 10 kids and max of 20 includes cake and candles, juice, 45 minutes of cat play time and a photo collage of the experience. Rates are $50 per child, with lots of add-ons available like photoshoots with a favorite cat, make-your-own kitty ear band, T-shirt, etc. and more.
Have you visited one of NYC’s cat cafes with the kids? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
— Yuliya Geikhman