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 www.unlockparis.com.