France’s very first cat cafe has opened, bringing the enchanting Japanese concept that combines food and felines to Paris’ Marais neighbourhood.

Le Café des Chats, which opened in September, is already a roaring success, with visitors having to reserve three days in advance for a weekday slot and up to three weeks in advance for a weekend. The cat-themed idea, where you can sit and stroke any of the cafe’s 12 resident felines while sipping a warming cup of organic tea, originated in Japan and aims to create a relaxing environment in which the stresses of the busy world can be alleviated by the soothing presence of docile, purring cats.

But whereas the Japanese model involves a cover charge and an hourly fee – essentially making it like a pet rental service – Le Café des Chats’ owner Margaux Gandelon has made his version a friendly tea room, where the focus is first on the quality of the food and the cats are an added extra. As you eat a weekend brunch of croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice, a classic lunch of quiche and salad, or a home-style French supper such as poulet à la Normande (chicken with Calvados), the friendly cats – all rescued via an animal protection society – weave between your legs or doze contentedly on chairs.

The bi-level space features mismatched furniture, an upright piano and a vaulted basement dating back to the 15th Century, all combining to create a cosy environment that recalls the atmosphere of an ordinary French sitting room. Visitors are briefed on how to behave with the four-legged furballs (don’t disturb sleeping cats; don’t feed them; wash your hands before stroking them) and children are to be closely monitored as the cats and kittens aren’t too fond of having their tails pulled.

The cafe has been such a hit that the Café des Chats team is already looking to open a second branch elsewhere in France.

Kim Laidlaw is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes