Have you ever gone to a bodega to buy a quick snack, but ended up staying much longer than you intended because you kept looking at that chubby cat who has made the bodega its new home? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the club! Bodega Cats – a social media page dedicated to all the bodega residents out there. Like its name, Bodega Cats posts’ main characters are the unofficial staffs of the bodegas who worked tirelessly to eliminate pesky pests and meow at anyone who leaves without paying. But can any criminals commit a crime when those Puss-in-Boots, sparkling eyes are looking at them? We are quite doubtful about that!
The Bodega Cats social media project was founded by Rob Hitt, with the sole mission of giving these gorgeous felines the love and attention they deserve and preaching the idea of having a bodega cat since they bring unexpectedly various benefits for both owners and customers. Scroll down to see the most recent photos of convenience store cats, vote for your favorite staff, and read on the interview with Bodega Cats founder Rob Hitt. Check out our previous hard-working feline workers in Part 1, too!
At the moment, there more than 10k bodegas in New York City alone. While bumping into a bodega cat might lift your mood up, they’re actually not legal to be kept inside because they’re around edible products, which might relate to infectious issues. Fines for having a cat in these places can range from 200 dollars to up to 2k dollars for repeated offenders (the bodega owners, not the cats).
Rob started the Bodega Cats accounts in 2012 and received an unimaginable amount of followers ever since: nearly 730k followers on Twitter, 367k fans on Instagram, as well as 56k followers on Facebook.
Every cat, in Rob's opinion, is pretty unique, and how it will respond in a bodega when customers come in will be absolutely dependent on each individual animal. "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." But normally all bodega cats don't seem to mind human presence, some would even try to grab your attention and lure you into buying more!
Just like most people nowadays, Rob was also stuck at home and started working from home. Even though he was obliged to stay inside more, he eventually got more time to invest in the online accounts of Bodega Cats: "So like all of us I’m stuck inside missing the cats alongside many of us." Rob has made good use of his account's fame. He said the Bodega Cats account is always increasing, and he's teamed with a number of organizations in the last year to help raise awareness about humanely controlling the cat population through adoption, TNR (trap, neuter, return), rescue, and helping with vet fees for rescues. "In some cases like with Greenpoint Cats, they’ll work with bodega owners to help get their cats fixed (spayed and neutered)."
The idea for the Bodega Cats project lighted up 9 years ago, after Rob was hanging out late one night in New York, he then dropped by a corner shop and saw a cat. Fascinated by the feline, he took a picture and uploaded it on Instagram, which he was later overwhelmed by the storms of likes and comments.
“My friends enjoyed the photos of the cats I posted more than the photos of me! At that point, I decided to start the Bodega Cats accounts in hopes of giving people a moment of positivity and smile throughout their day,” Rob said.
“Now, I’d say we get about 75-100 submissions a week. I really don’t think too much about picking the photos other than if they invoke some sort of emotion in me. It never hurts to select a kitten, a cat on top of a bag of potato chips, or one protecting a nice warm ATM machine."
Rob hopes that the photographs shared on the Bodega Cats' social media sites can elicit positive emotions in viewers and become popular because people enjoy discovering something familiar in a new, yet comfortable context.
"If you have a cat and then see one out, it brings back that warm feeling of home. I also feel people are excited because they know to date we've been able to utilize the money from the sales in our website towards helping organizations that help the feral, community, or bodega cat population. We’ve also been able to find other effective ways of helping by donating social posts (tweets, stories, feed posts, etc) which can help raise awareness for positive organizations."