to fly in the face of most genetic
assumptions, she’d birthed a clowder
of kittens that looked nothing like
her, including one fluffy black-and-white chap I affectionately called
Beast. After we shared a moment
together under a package of what
were allegedly double-dipped milk
chocolate peanuts, I declared that I
would like to adopt the kitty.
By the next morning, Beast was
gone. He’d been scooped up from
his bodega life and taken to what
I’d like to hope has become his forever home.
Since my days of being smitten
with Nola, I’ve become something
of a bodega cat addict. A trip to
the store to pick up some mundane
item like garbage bags or an onion
suddenly becomes an opportunity
to catch up with the cats. My current bodega cat is called Pounce.
He’s a sprightly fellow with an athletic frame who likes to nap on the
lottery console next to the door.
I’ll sometimes throw one of those
generic tiny toy mice around for him
to chase as we shoot the breeze.
My phone is filled with pictures
of bodega cats past and present.
At my last apartment, the local deli
also had a hardware store down-
stairs. This curious retail enterprise
was overseen by a champion ginger
tabby who — for reasons known
only to himself — had a habit of
hiding among a bunch of plastic
flowers. I also once saw what I like
to think of as a real gem in any
collection — a full-on supermarket
cat. This off-white creature was
sitting atop the wooden frame of
the refrigerated cheese section. A
genuine collector’s item.
Beyond my own experience of
neighborhood bodega cats, the
concept has caught the imagina-
tion of the wider world. A spoof
wildlife documentary about them
has racked up a quarter of a million
views on You Tube; sample dialogue
includes the explanation, “The
bodega is their terrain. It is an urban
outpost and they are the sentries.”
The short also features a picture
of an imperious-looking cat sitting
in an empty Corona box and some
kittens hanging out in a Sunkist crate.
Building on the bodega cats’ infamy,
New York’s public access radio sta-
tion has run a competition to find
each neighborhood’s most notable
bodega cat. I’m partial to Carmel,
a young dude with a particularly
intense face who lives in a Polish deli
in the Ridgewood area of Queens.
So why does everyone seem
to love a bodega cat? I think the
answer is simple: Their presence
adds an almost cartoonish excite-
ment to what are otherwise boring
errand runs. There’s something
endearingly comical about the
idea of the noble and finicky feline
dwelling in a world consisting of
cheap convenience foodstuffs
and everyday goods. I mean, who
wouldn’t want to be served their
bottle of seltzer by a cat?
Phillip Mlynar likes to consider himself the world’s
foremost expert on rappers’
cats. When not chronicling
the antics of his own cat,
Mimosa, on Catster.com, his musings on
music can be found at NYLON, Red Bull
Music Academy, the Village Voice, and
Deadspin. He tweets at @phillip_mlynar
and rues the day he utilized an underscore
in his Twitter handle.
HOW TO INTERACT WITH
A BODEGA CAT
Once you’ve spotted your first bodega
cat, here’s how you go about befriending him ...
1. EXERCISE CAUTION
Most bodega cats are outgoing and
friendly — but they’re also working
cats that might be used to a wilder
lifestyle than the average house cat. So
approach carefully and calmly.
2. STAY CHATTY
Ask the store owner if it’s OK to pet
the bodega cat and also his or her
name — most times there’s a fun story
3. BE RESPECTFUL
Cats are territorial animals — and
so are shopkeepers! Remember: If a
bodega cat retreats behind a counter
or into a storeroom, that’s not an invitation to follow the feline.
4. KEEP IT REGULAR
There’s nothing wrong with popping
into a bodega just to see the cat —
make it part of your routine.