Inside the World of Bodega Cats

Monday, March 31, 2014

WNYC is running a vote to find NYC's best bodega cat -- with the next round of voting starting today. Brian Lehrer Show producer Jody Avirgan discusses the laws around bodega cats, whether they are properly cared for, and what makes them so darn cute. They are illegal according to NYC Health Code Article 81, Section 25, but many owners are willing to risk the fine because cats are the most effective way to deter rodents -- and the fine for animals and the fine for mice are just about the same amount. Some vets, however, are concerned that bodega cats don't get proper care. In 35 years of practice, Ted Weiner of Gotham Animal clinic tells WNYC he's never seen a bodega owner bring in a cat for treatment.


Jody Avirgan

Comments [32]

ted weiner from nyc

hi, now to follow up ,lets vote for the top five cats who were rescued from bodegas after the termination of this contest. in other words from the airing of this program you have been able to motivate not only trying to get bodega cats vet visits but also new yorkers rescuing these "bodega cats."

Apr. 14 2014 02:04 PM
Arlene Hermann from Poughkeepsie

When I lived in an apartment in Manhattan my two well-cared for cats kept cockroaches away.

Apr. 05 2014 11:29 AM
Jefferson Thomas from New York, NY

Clearly, the solution is - FORCE all cats to buy health insurance! Tell the young invincible cats that they'll face a penalty that's too small to matter and write the law so that it can only be collected as a deduction from any refund they might get. Then remove the incentive by telling half of that demographic they can remain as dependent cats on their parent's policy, and the other half that they can wait to buy insurance until they have a hairball, because pre-existing conditions are no longer an exclusion. If any cats are left after that, give them a government subsidy toward coverage from all the money you...didn't collect from the others?

Apr. 05 2014 10:44 AM
cindy riccardelli from Asheville, NC

I have two cats in my small home where there is food. They have a clean litter box in the bathroom away from the food. They keep mice away from my food. As long as the Bodega owner keeps them in the same manner, the rats and mice stay away and with so many homeless animals, the cat has a roof over it's head. They are doing a job, leave them be! Rats carry disease far more than a well kept cat would.

Mar. 31 2014 11:53 AM
Kennedy James

most people are actually allergic to the litter (the usual clay one found at most places). I recommend using pine litter or even try to toilet-train your cat! I toilet-trained mine! ;)

Mar. 31 2014 11:52 AM
Inge from Manhattan

As your guest mentioned, mice are very smart. I suspect they would avoid bodegas with a resident cat. Just having a cat on the premises is a deterrent for mice. I have always had a cat and never saw a mouse even when neighbors in adjacent apartments were infested. To address the comments re cat odors, cats will only soil inappropriately if they don't have a clean litter box available.

Mar. 31 2014 11:52 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

For the man who called in re his daughter's asthma: I'm sure she would have asthma attacks from resident rodents, too, so the cats are not the issue. Your daughter needs to take her medication regularly and wear a mask, if necessary.

It so happens that NYC is a pet-lovers' haven, so no matter where one goes, there will always be a chance of someone having an allergy or asthma attack. I suppose it could happen from the squirrels in the park, too.

Mar. 31 2014 11:49 AM
Maggie from nj

Remember history--Elizabethan England was devastated by bubonic plague which many historians trace directly to the earlier extermination of cats in the country.
Cats in cities (not in suburbs of countryside)have an important place in the ecosystem, such as it is.

Mar. 31 2014 11:47 AM
Myles MacVane from Westport, Connecticut

Mousers is the plural of mouser, which is a cat that is good at killing mice. The proper is pronounced as in mouse-er. Were one to give the "s" a "z" sound, mouser would sound as Mauser, the German pistol. One thought on cats in bodegas that was not mentioned - in so far as I heard, anyway - on the show. What happens when a cat catches a mouse (and maybe a rat, too, for all I know)? The cat kills the rodent and starts to eat it. In that process, of course, the guts of the rodent are spilled upon whatever surface with the bodega that the cat is using as its cutting board. Hardly sanitary!

Mar. 31 2014 11:46 AM

Give me a break with this anthropomorphic nonsense!!


Mar. 31 2014 11:42 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I agree with Jeff from The East Village- who hasn't heard of mousers? AND it is pronounced just as it appears not with a z sound.

Mar. 31 2014 11:42 AM
LJ from UWS

NYC also has -- or had -- also bookstore cats! Remember the big black cat who lived at the now-defunct Shakespeare's bookstore on the UWS?!

Mar. 31 2014 11:41 AM
Tony from Canarsie

1. Mouser is pronounced Mouser.

2. Someone mentioned something about cats "playing around" with rats. Cats often play with their prey, especially mice, but rarely if ever with rats. They're not stupid.

Mar. 31 2014 11:41 AM
Robert from NYC

Peppermint oil really does keep the mice away but you have to do it fairly frequently so that the odor is around. But don't overdo it, peppermint oil can really become nauseating so keep it at low levels, spray it from a spray bottle and just enough in key areas and they mice will stay away. A little peppermint oil a day keeps the mice away, as apples do with doctors!

Mar. 31 2014 11:40 AM

No "z" sound in mouser. It is an "ess" sound. And 1) appropriately-fed cats *will* hunt just for sport, especially if they are bored; 2) often, the presence of a cat will keep mice away, especially after a couple of kills. I think the kills and the scent/sounds makes the mice think twice.

Mar. 31 2014 11:40 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I love cats. I have always had one. Having said that this is a stupid little project you have going on here. (They have that dumb one on The Takeaway for your favorite TV character). It would seem that there was some sort of meeting among the execs at NYC to come up with audience participation. But it is much too cute and a waste of time when more important issues could be addressed. I haven't heard anything that gets to the heart of what motivates the charter school push for example.

Mar. 31 2014 11:39 AM
Jeff from East Village

Producer Avirgan never heard the word "mouser"? Maybe this is the wrong story for him.

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM
Jonathan from Manhattan

Yes Brian, studies have shown cats will activate the part of their brain involved with hunting over eating, sleeping and mating.

Cats relish hunting not necessarily eating the mice.

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

Cats keep the rodent population at bay. As long as they, themselves, are kept clean and healthy and the cats don't get into the food that is meant for customers, I can't see why they should be a problem. I would presume that rodents would be more of a problem than the cats.

We have cats in our shops - although we don't have bodegas - and none of us has ever seen any kind of rodent or droppings here. The cats are personable, clean, healthy, and earn their room and board. Most customers enjoy seeing them here because it is a friendlier atmosphere with them around.

For the current caller, the other best way to deter rodents is the use of rat snakes, which seek out the rodents and can get into smaller places than cats, but people like snakes less than cats. :-)

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM

There was a piece in The New Yorker a few years back. The writer followed an health inspector around, at the end of the piece the writer asked the inspector what the most disturbing thing he's seen was…

Cats using the pretzel salt bins on food carts at a depot as a litter box!

I'm TOTALLY sure those guys thoroughly clean those bins and replace the salt after these "VERY" infrequent occurrences!!


Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM

This is more of a Bodega Cat Hot-or-Not than a Bodega Cat Bracket. How am I supposed to vote ANY of these adorable guys down if you don't make me choose between them?

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM
Robert from NYC

They will go after mouse even if they are well-feed, not overfed but fed decently. There is a store in east village too that smells so bad. The cat looks very clean and well-kept but the smell is overwhelming.

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM

I went into a local place that recently completed their Amy's-pizzafication transformation, and a mouse darted across the floor right in front of me. Another time, I saw a mouse happily chowing down on energy bars in a Duane Reade. I haven't been back to either store. I've never seen a mouse in a bodega with a cat.

Mar. 31 2014 11:37 AM
Betty Arce from Bronx, NY

Here's a short video about bodega cats.

Mar. 31 2014 11:36 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

The site of a cat in a bodega makes me smile and I usually pet them. The cuteness and the fact that they have a "job" surpasses any of my health concerns. I've never seen a bodega cat in bad shape, and I imagine that these felines enjoy a better life than if they lived on the street.

Mar. 31 2014 11:35 AM
steve from manhattan

I live in an upper west side Coop. After Hurricane Sandy, when the rats were flooded out of the sewers, they all (seemingly) came into our basement and we had an infestation that was scary and horrible (they are bold and unafraid of people). Our super got two cats for the basement, and within 3 days, the rats were TOTALLY gone. They have been gone ever since. I will never again go into a bodega that does NOT have a cat -- they are the most awesome (and natural) way to keep rats and mice away.

Mar. 31 2014 11:35 AM
steve from manhattan

I live in an upper west side Coop. After Hurricane Sandy, when the rats were flooded out of the sewers, they all (seemingly) came into our basement and we had an infestation that was scary and horrible (they are bold and unafraid of people). Our super got two cats for the basement, and within 3 days, the rats were TOTALLY gone. They have been gone ever since. I will never again go into a bodega that does NOT have a cat -- they are the most awesome (and natural) way to keep rats and mice away.

Mar. 31 2014 11:34 AM
tsol from Brooklyn

This inspector is eating a sandwich and talking with his mouth full, and he's the guy who determines what is sanitary?!?

He talks about "sanitary" conditions without citing ANY evidence of health hazards created by cats.

PS- I hate cats.

Mar. 31 2014 11:33 AM
Carol Scudder from Brooklyn

I love Bodega Cats!! And I'm sure they prevent more diseases than they could possibly cause by keeping vermin at bay. If the health department wants to do something useful - how about making sure that the cats are well cared for and healthy - so they can better to their job to keep those awful rats and mice away? The city should provide vet care for these important - vital creatures. MEOW!

Mar. 31 2014 11:32 AM

NO rats, NO cats!! You don't get to have either in a food establishment!!

Mar. 31 2014 11:29 AM


Mar. 31 2014 11:27 AM

Cute kitties should not be in contact with food because they transmit disease. How are they permitted in stores that sell food, how are they allowed to sit on fruit and veggies? Please keep kitties at home, change the litter box DAILY with sterile gloves or thoroughly wash your hands after cleaning.

Mar. 31 2014 10:27 AM

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