The Area Of New Orleans That Transforms Into A Cat Lover's Paradise At Night

Sitting between Lake Pontchartrain and the mighty Mississippi River, New Orleans, Louisiana is a destination that has long been defined by powerful waterways and rich culture and traditions. French, African-American, and Spanish roots run deep here, giving New Orleans an eclectic take on heritage, language, cuisine, and annual festivities that draw in visitors in droves. Whether you have a heart for Mardi Gras, gumbo, Bourbon Street nightlife, or French architecture, you'll find plenty of reasons to linger in New Orleans and discover something new and unique. 

If you happen to be a cat lover, the city has something inspiring for you, too. During the daytime, Jackson Square in the French Quarter is a popular and bustling tourist destination, however, when the sun goes down and the crowds have disappeared, it becomes a haven for feral cats instead. Their nightly congregation within this area's historic parameters is incredible to behold and has a way of easily inspiring otherworldly ponderings in the minds of onlookers.

A historic feline gathering site in the city

Nestled between the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and the Mississippi River in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Jackson Square is a destination that's been revered in the city since the 18th century. Renamed from Place d'Armes to honor Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans of 1815, Jackson Square also hosts the Pontalba Apartments. These date back to 1850 and are often referred to as the oldest of their kind in the nation.

Jackson Square's impeccable location makes it a popular place among locals during the day, as well as a top destination for tourists looking to grab a photo in front of the towering Andrew Jackson equestrian statue. Visitors can spend time in the central square day or night, but portions of the area are locked behind wrought iron gates at sunset. This is when impressive numbers of feral city cats come out of the shadows and gather together in the dark to roam in tandem.

With so much tangible history in this area, and New Orleans being a place where mystical notions have long thrived, it's easy to feel like there's some type of supernatural force bringing these cats together each night. A passerby can stop and peer at them through the gates and it's as if the many cats simply don't notice at all. They gather without fail each evening, almost religiously, much to the delight and wonder of visitors and locals alike.

A cat congregation with many potential causes

While it's certainly tempting to consider the idea that feral cats are drawn together at Jackson Square by invisible forces, there could be other explanations at hand. New Orleans has always been a place where feral cats have been a part of daily life. Many point to the city's long hot summers and mild winters as factors that keep feral cats comfortable roaming the streets year-round. Additionally, as a city built around waterways, New Orleans is also a popular destination among rodents. These may be uninvited guests in residential homes, but, for the feral cats in New Orleans, they serve as a welcomed feast.

Tourist numbers in New Orleans have also risen in recent years, with peak numbers reaching nearly 20 million annually, according to XOLA. Jackson Square in particular welcomes buskers, tourists, vendors, and performers daily. The square is surrounded by eateries and is a top destination for annual festivals. The remnants of these daytime celebrations offer feral cats plenty of reasons to return at night and pick up any remaining savory morsels at their leisure. Whether it's rodents, scraps, or unseen influences that bring the cats together at Jackson Square, make no mistake that it's an event well worth witnessing for yourself the next time you're here.