It’s kitty time again! We’re not showing your typical cute-yet-aggressive felines today. No, today we’re venturing into the world of cats photographed in modest but cozy New York convenience stores and local corner shops.
Robb Hitt created the Bodega Cats project (or, rather, paw-ject) way back in 2012 and was astonished to see how quickly the idea took off. It’s been nearly a decade since and now Bodega Cats is a real force to reckon with on social media, with 674k fans on Twitter, 351k cat-lovers on Instagram, and a further 53k followers on Facebook. That’s over a million cat worshippers!
No matter how down and depressed I am or how gloomy the weather is outside, cat pictures always brighten my day (autumn rain, please have alternating shifts with sunny days, thank you). These photographs of bodega cats doing their thing and looking like they own the place should hopefully make you smile. Give your favorite cats a pet and an upvote now. Meanwhile, in the comments, you can praise them to the skies and back.
Scroll down for an interview with the PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity, on cats, how to identify when they’re (un)friendly, and what to do if you see an unwell animal in your neighborhood.
I was curious as to how cats communicate their desire to be touched and when it's best to leave these massive floofs alone. Nina Downing, a PDSA Vet Nurse, was kind enough to answer questions about the animals.
"Cats generally prefer to be the ones doing the approaching and will usually make it pretty clear if they’re craving some attention from you. Cats that follow you around (whether your own or one you come across while out and about), with their tails pointing to the sky like a car aerial, walk around your legs or rub their faces on the calf of your leg are all showing obvious signs that they would welcome some kind attention from you," Nina explained. However, even if a cat is craving attention, it doesn't mean that you can do whatever you want with it.
"This doesn’t mean that you should pick them up though, that would be a step too far for most; few cats appreciate being picked up, not even by their beloved owners!" she warned.
“A gentle rub around the back of their ear and along their back, stopping before you reach their tail (even the most relaxed of cats can be very sensitive of this area and turn to give you a quick swipe!) will be appreciated," PDSA Vet Nurse Nina shared . "Try not to encourage unknown cats any more than this though, or you may find them getting carried away and following you home! In most cases, cats that venture out don’t want any human contact at all, they enjoy doing their own thing as they’re naturally quite solitary creatures. Cats that are minding their own business watching the world go by, should just be left alone."
Nina has also listed the warning signs we should watch out for that clearly indicate that the cats in question don't want any petting, love, or snuggles from us. "If cats get to the point where they’re warning you off through backing away, looking angry by flattening their ears and showing the whites of their eyes, growling, hissing, or spitting, it’s likely you’ve overstepped the mark and they may even lash out at you to protect themselves," she said. You can learn more about cat body language right over here.
For those who are unfamiliar, bodegas are corner stores that can be found across New York City's five boroughs. In Latin American Spanish, the word refers to a tiny neighborhood business. Even if we live far away from NYC, chances are we live within walking distance of one of these.
I wanted to find out how people should react if they spot a local cat that appears to be ill. Of course, who you contact depends entirely on where you live. For instance, if you spot an animal that looks unwell in New York City, you could try contacting the Animal Medical Center, the ASPCA, or the ACC.
Meanwhile, PDSA Vet Nurse Nina explained what you should do in the UK. “If you see a cat that looks like they need urgent vet help, contact the RSPCA right away for advice on their emergency number 0300 1234 999. They will likely ask you to contact your local vet and arrange for emergency first aid care as soon as possible," she explained.
Handling an injured, scared cat who might be in pain can be difficult. The animal might lash out at you, so it will need very careful handling. "Use a towel to protect both yourself and the cat when moving and place them in a secure carrier to transport them. If you can’t move the cat without putting yourself at risk, the RSPCA will be able to help. Once the cat is at the vet's, hopefully, the cat will be microchipped and able to be reunited with its owner as a result. If not, placing posters around the neighborhood and using social media to try and track owners down can be really helpful," Nina detailed what we ought to do to help the cat reunite with its owner.
If the cat appears to be ailing but isn't in urgent danger, it's better to try to locate its owner. That manner, you may inform them nicely that their cat appears to be sick. "They may not have realized, or the cat may already be receiving treatment for the problem (elderly cats especially can sometimes appear less healthy). If you’re not sure where the cat lives, ask around the neighborhood, place a notice on lamp posts, supermarkets, and local vets, and post on local social media groups."
Attaching a paper collar with your concerns and contact info might also be a good idea if you can't locate the owners. As long as the cat appears friendly. "If the cat is a regular visitor and approachable then you can apply a paper collar (that’s easily ripped if the cat should get caught up) asking the owners to contact you so you can chat through your concerns. If no owner comes forward and the cat is unwell and needs help, contact RSPCA to report your concerns." You can visit this link right here for some more expert vet advice from the PDSA.
There are over 10k bodegas in New York City. And just like they’re a part of NYC’s everyday (and night) life, so are cats a recurring feature of the bodegas themselves. While they are absolutely, 100% adorable, they aren’t, technically speaking, all that legal. At least that’s what Mental Floss claims.
“Cats fall under a prohibition upheld by the city's Department of Health and Hygiene as well as the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets that prevents any animal (other than fish or service dogs) from being on the premises where food and drinks are being sold: The felines could potentially shed hair and excrement around edible products, a clear violation of safety regulations,” Mental Floss explains.
Technically, fines for keeping a cat in a convenience store range from 200 to 350 dollars. Repeat violators could even face fines of 2k dollars. However, having a cat around can scare away rats and other kinds of vermin.
Though, there is a theory that cats tend to shy away from messing with bigger, more mature rats (we keep hearing they’re massive in New York!).
Gregory Glass from the University of Florida told Scientific American: “Once that rat hits puberty, they are way too big and nasty for the cat to deal with,” he says. “You can watch a lot of cats and rats accommodating one another, easing by one another, eating out of the same trash bag.”
According to Professor Glass, cats might be more of a placebo than an actual force to be reckoned with when it comes to fighting back against rats. “What they do is a placebo. They make people who want to do something good feel better about themselves. Sure, somebody might have a super-cat that will take lots of rats. But the super-cat will have to kill an awful lot of rats to make any sort of difference.”
During a previous interview with Rob, the project's originator, nearly precisely a year ago, he stated that all cats are different, and this includes bodega cats. The behavior of a given animal when approached by a bright-eyed consumer is entirely dependent on the individual.
Some cats will be more than happy to be petted (though keep in mind we’re still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic) while others might see themselves as untouchable feline royalty, not to be touched by human plebs.
"Cats will just be cats in terms of Bodega Cats vs. House Cats. They all have their own personalities. Feral cats on the other hand aren’t conditioned to seek out human interaction so they act more secluded,” Rob explained
During the first half-year of the pandemic, Rob was stuck at home “missing the cats” alongside many other New Yorkers. Now, with the continued rollout of various Covid vaccines, more and more New Yorkers are able to feast their eyes on fluffy corner shop cats. (If that won’t convince you to get vaccinated, what will?)
Rob has been putting the Bodega Cats account’s fame to some very positive use. He’s partnered up with various organizations that help raise awareness about controlling the cat population. Whether that’s through adoption, TNR (that’s ‘trap, neuter, return’), rescue, and helping pay for vet bills for rescue animals.