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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Mèo Maison joins Georgetown’s league of cat cafes

Release stress while supporting a D.C. small business

On what was another dreary, rainy day in Washington, D.C., the pastel blue walls and cozy atmosphere of Mèo Maison enveloped customers with cat hair and warmth. The store’s owner, Lauren Luu, matched the feeling as she greeted me with a bright sweater and a smile. 

Mèo Maison opened in November 2023 and boasts 70 cat adoptions since their grand opening. 

Partnered with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, the company houses anywhere from 15 to 20 rescued cats and kittens at a time to help them find permanent homes and open up spaces in shelters. Many of the cats lounge in pastel-colored hammocks and floor cushions during the store’s hours as passersby stop, even in the rain, to admire them. 

I envied the comfortable blue-pink pillows available to the cats as Luu and I sat along the benches that line the store. Upon my arrival, I caught the attention of Caty Purry, a two-year-old long-haired cat. She enjoyed my affection for a moment and quickly jumped off the table once I was no longer of interest.

Luu explains that she used a piece of her own heritage in naming the store. 

“Mèo is ‘cat’ in Vietnamese and I wanted to do something with that,” she said. “Maison” translates to “house” in French, which Luu used to form the phrase “cat house.” 

“Then you take the two M’s, they look like cats,” Luu said. 

Her otherwise bare laptop sports a baby pink Mèo Maison sticker. She jokes that she never had the time or space for her own cats, but now her “whole life is cats.” 

“I grew up with dogs,” Luu said. “But my dad grew up with a bunch of cats and he would always tell us about cats.” From there, she said her cat obsession grew. 

Luu hopes to provide a welcoming and calming experience for customers who stop by Mèo Maison. Many customers visit in an attempt to get over a fear of cats, she said. 

Luu aims to provide a “safe space” for both the cats and the customers. 

“A lot of people just come here when they’re stressed out from school or from work. I want to say it’s just very calming,” she said. Luu believes that cats can absorb energy and help with stressors from everyday life. 

Luu is well-acquainted with each cat in her care, noting the tabby cat, Rihanna, and the cat’s unique love for belly rubs. I took about as many photos of Rihanna as there are of the real pop star. 

Every cat has a different acclimation process, and Luu said that it “takes time” for them to adapt to the new scenery.

“It really depends on the personality and the cat, or where they came from,” Luu said. She explained that the cats have a hidden space in the basement for when they are “overwhelmed” or “overstimulated” from being upstairs with customers. 

Along with Lucky Dog Rescue, Mèo Maison partners with its next-door neighbor, Café Con Bagel

Want a ‘catpuccino’? Or the ‘purrfect’ matcha latte? The cafe serves multiple kitty-themed drinks that can be ordered through a small window connected to the cafe next door. 

While I can’t speak for the cats, the lack of customers during my midweek visit only added to the serene, home-away-from-home feeling that Mèo Maison provides. Luu said her need for weekend volunteers is greatest, as that’s when the store sees its busiest hours. 

“It’s creating a community, you know? You’re hanging out with a bunch of people who love cats and at the same time you’re doing something you love to do.” 

This article was edited by Eliza DuBose, Sara Winick and Abigail Turner. Copy editing by Luna Jinks, Leta Lattin and Charlie Mennuti. 

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