Customers braving the lunchtime rush at Paris's newest cafe to order their coffees and croissants, are now able to enjoy them in the company of a dozen resident cats.

The "Cafe des Chats" in the heart of the capital's chic Marais district is home to a dozen felines who weave in between the tables or curl up on armchairs as diners tuck in to their salads and quiches.

The establishment is aimed at Parisians unable to keep pets in cramped city-centre apartments and though the idea may seem eccentric, cafe manager Margaux Gandelon says the potential health benefits of "purr-therapy" are real.

This month's opening weekend was a resounding success with queues snaking along the pavement and bookings taken from now until November. Some 300 potential customers had to be turned away.

Gandelon says animal welfare is paramount and the clientele are prohibited from subjecting the cats to undue stress. She is prepared to evict any customers who fail to play by the rules.

The animals themselves are a motley crew of abandoned cats and strays adopted from pet rescue centres. Among them is Habby who suffers from feline dwarfism with a stunted tail and unusually short paws.

Despite two years spent with foster families the sweet-tempered tabby was never adopted but now she settled down on the lap of young business student Florian Laboureau.

Visiting the cafe out of curiosity, Laboureau described it as a "great concept with sweet cats " but admitted he is more of a dog person.

London will also be getting its own cat café in the near future. Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium opens to the public in Shoreditch next year.

Presented by Adam Justice