Little Lions: Inside a NYC Cat Cafe

Somewhere on the border between asleep and awake...

Somewhere on the border between asleep and awake…

For most of us, there are few problems that cats can’t fix.  Unless you’re a diehard dog person (or simply allergic), cats are little, furry slices of sunshine.

Don’t believe me?  Set a few cats (or, better yet, kittens) loose.  Then watch as everyone–be they earl or churl, politician or patrician, Republican or Democrat–beggar themselves to get the cat’s attention, prostrating themselves in front of these royal, furred ones, cooing over them, tempting them with all the manner of treats and toys.  Indeed, I’ve often pondered releasing kittens into a meeting between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, especially given the former’s weakness for pudgy babies (and the latter’s affection for cuddly things).

Vocal and active, Sebastian sought to play with the other cats and to roam around. He was often stymied in his efforts, however.

Vocal and active, Sebastian sought to play with the other cats and to roam around. He was often stymied in his efforts, however.

Recalcitrant world leaders aside, for those of us who are banned from owning pets, fear not: there is an alternative.  Originally from Japan, cat cafes flourished throughout the densely populated island country, thanks to a mixture of strict apartment regulations, limited space and lack of resources.  

And now they’ve come to New York City.  

Last Sunday, I went to visit the aptly-named Little Lions Cafe, a charming, cozy space overflowing with felines and their obsessive admirers.   From tawny orange tabbies to two-colored tuxedo cats, Little Lions is a veritable house of happiness and tranquility.

Sleepy calico cat...

Sleepy calico cat…

It’s a fairly straightforward system.   You can either pay beforehand, reserving your space on their website, or simply show up and pay on the spot.  We preferred advance bookings, not only out of convenience, but also to ensure there was enough space.  Advance bookings are also necessary for special experiences, including Movie Night, Yoga with Cats, and Afternoon Tea.

When you show up to Little Lions, be sure to enter the cafe space (where the edibles are prepared) first.  Because of NYC regulations, food cannot be prepared in the same space as animals, and so the cafe itself is divided into two sections: one where you can purchase food and drink, and the other where you play with cats.  You can, of course, bring your food into the cat area, but do be careful not to let our four-legged friends steal your food or drink.

A snapshot of Lionel, aptly named and the friendliest of the bunch.

A snapshot of Lionel, aptly named and the friendliest of the bunch.


The area itself was well-lit, spacious, and airy, with lots of vertical space for cats to climb up and down, and well-equipped with scratching posts, water, and toys.  Many of the cats were sleeping, but a fair number did wake up and walk around, some dodging humans, others mingling with humans, and avoiding each other.   None of the cats seemed particularly annoyed or stressed, though there was a brief moment of tension when Sebastian, a black-and-white cat, attempted to play with a cat sitting by the window.  There was a hiss and a yowl, but nothing more; cafe staff were very prompt in separating the two rowdy roommates.  We later learned that window cat, pictured below, was only recently rescued from the streets, and was still learning to trust others after a lifetime spent on her own.

The finicky feline that Sebastian tried (unsuccessfully) to befriend.

The finicky feline that Sebastian tried (unsuccessfully) to befriend.

Visitors should also note that there are a number of adoptable cats, and that all of Little Lion’s residents come from rescue organizations and shelters.  For those who have fallen in love and want to add a member to their household, the cafe does have a bulletin board with the names and personalities of several cats listed for adoption.

When I entered, I did notice a slight, sour smell; a longtime cat aficionado, my girlfriend explained that it was simply the cat’s natural smell, as well as a hint of the litterbox.  The smell did bring back unwelcome memories of shoveling out the litterbox for my ex-girlfriend’s cat, as well as fears about toxoplasmosis.

Irrational fears aside, however, Little Lion was a fantastic way to spend a lazy Sunday.  I highly recommend this outing, especially if you have any friends who are crazy for cats.  Just don’t expect the cats to be all over you, and you’ll be fine.

By | 2017-06-22T18:35:12+00:00 August 3rd, 2016|Writings|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment