1 of 10
THERE'S ACTUALLY MORE THAN ONE
To avoid trouble with the Health Department, Meow Parlour co-founder Christina Ha opted for two separate storefronts – one sells goods ranging from cat-shaped cookies and macarons to pour-over coffee, while the other houses the cats. For convenience, customers can have their goodies delivered to the cat section since the two shops are around the corner from one another.
2 of 10
BAKED GOODS ARE MADE WITH LOVE – AND CAT-FRIENDLY INGREDIENTS
Ha also runs the kitchen in the café, so she’s well aware of what goes into each cookie, macaron and brownie. “I know if my cat broke into my bag and stole [a treat], I could be like, ‘He’ll be fine,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. This is also part of the reason Ha didn’t want to make Meow Parlour into a place where you could bring in outside food. “What happens if someone brings a sandwich that is made with garlic? Garlic causes cats’ red blood cells to burst,” says Ha. “So we wanted to make sure there weren’t issues like that.”
3 of 10
THE CAFé'S CONCEPTION IS A FUNNY STORY
Girl emails girl. Girls bond over cats. Girls launch a cat café. That was pretty much how Ha (center) connected with her business partner, Emilie Legrand (left). Just having moved to New York from Paris, Legrand sent Ha “the nicest email ever” complimenting her macarons (sold at a nearby dessert stand). The two emailed regularly and struck up a business relationship one year after that initial email. “It’s such a weird sort of thing, like I opened a cat café with my pen pal basically,” says Ha. “We connected instantly over email.”
4 of 10
YOU CAN TAKE A CAT HOME
To coordinate adoptions, Meow Parlour (where the cats are all adoptable) works with KittyKind, a local non-profit rescue organization that handles the details when a customer finds his or her future pet at the café. However, “it’s not, like, ‘I like this cat, I’m just going to put it in my bag and go,’ ” Ha says with a laugh. “There’s no impulse shopping here.”
5 of 10
SHY CATS GET SPECIAL TREATMENT
“When they’re shy and new – there’s a back room back there – we keep them overnight to help them feel comfortable,” explains Ha of integrating new kitties.
6 of 10
IT WAS INSPIRED BY INTERNATIONAL CAT CAFéS
With Legrand having visited cat cafés in France, Japan and London – all of which offer their own unique quirks – the business partners used a small piece from each in their design. In France, the set-up is a full-service restaurant where customers eat at tables as their feline friends stay on the floor, while in London, the experience is more casual with patrons lying on the ground to get a better view of the cats. “We decided to come up with a bunch of different seating options,” says Ha, citing the high and low benches, as well as the customized bookshelf for Meow Parlour’s cats to walk through.
7 of 10
FUR CAN FLY
Not every cat is the same, as is the case with the furry residents of Meow Parlour. “Whenever the population changes, there’s a different dynamic we’re constantly figuring out,” says Ha. “It’s like, okay this cat left, and this other cat is pissed off about it. And then we brought in a new cat that hates everything. Every day is a new day.”
8 of 10
STAFFERS KNOW ALL (DUH)
After spending time with a group of cats, employees begin to understand and embrace certain personalities. “There are some cats here who don’t seem to be lap cats because they don’t find the one person that they bond with, but there’s something that suggests to me that it might happen,” Ha says. And her gut feeling has been proven right in the past. “I’ll say to [someone], ‘Just so you know, I think this is a lap cat.’ And they’ll say, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you sure?’ A week later, they send me a photo and they’re like, ‘You were right. I have a lap cat.’ “
9 of 10
SUCCESS STORIES HAPPEN REGULARLY
Since opening in December 2014, Meow Parlour has placed 40 cats (six or seven per month) in loving homes. The staff makes it a priority to showcase cats that are less likely to be adopted, such as adult felines.
10 of 10
IT'S A FEEL-GOOD CAREER
“It’s really nice seeing cats leave. It’s hard for me, emotionally, because I get attached to them,” says Ha. “It’s different from the traditional shelter setting, I get to know what these cats are like around people.” This, in turn, leads to helpful tips for prospective owners. “I really like being here talking to people as the cats are leaving, just letting them know, ‘You can cut her nails while she sleeps. She’s not going to notice,’ or, ‘This is what the transition was like for her when we brought her.’”