What are Bodega Cats?

Bodega cats live in bodegas! Europeans probably won’t know what a bodega is. I didn’t until I looked it up. New Yorkers will know.

Bodega cat "Snowball"
Bodega cat “Snowball”
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In the UK we might call them a “corner shop”. In America people call them a “corner store”. Not very different. In New York City a corner shop selling a wide range of products including booze is called a “bodega”. I am going to guess and say not everyone uses that term. Another definition would be an Hispanic/Spanish/Latin mini-mart. Are all bodegas owned by people of Latin American, Hispanic or Spanish origin or descent? Someone tell me in a comment, please

The word sounds foreign to English speakers and it is. It comes form the Spanish “la bodega” meaning grocery store.

The word was used in NYC to mainly describe corner shops in the Spanish speaking neighbourhoods of the city. Usage was extended to cover corner shops generally.

The bodega cat in the video below has died but he was loved:

I see that sometimes New Yorkers use “deli” as an interchangeable term to bodega. In the UK a deli is not a corner shop. A deli is a delicatessen specialising in selling delicious things to eat; fancy foods.

So bodega cats are cats living in independently owned/managed corner stores which are conveniently sited.

Bodega cats are arguably nearer to what domestic cats should be than the classic domestic cat living in someone’s home. This is because they serve a purpose over and above keeping the owner and staff of the shop company. The keep the rodents down and away. This is reminiscent of early cat domestication.

Bodega cat "Wolverine"
Bodega cat “Wolverine”

I guess they also please most customers by their presence. And they add a bit of character and soul to the store.

And I think we should thank the bodega cat caretakers because sometimes (most times?) these cats are rescued from the streets or rescue centres and given a nice home.

You’ll find that in Mediterranean European countries and in Asia domestic cat ownership is more along the lines of bodega cats. These are community street cats with no direct owner. They are part of the community and are fed and cared for by the community and shop keepers.

There are some really excellent bodega cat videos on the WNYC.org website. A couple are on this page. They provide a nice flavour of what the lives of these cats are like. It is a decent life. As good as any in a nice but non-commercial home.




7 thoughts on “What are Bodega Cats?”

  1. As for the use of the word bodega… I was in Peru (mainly Lima) and there many As for the use of the word bodega… I was in Peru (mainly Callao) and there many people run a store at the ground level of their house. Living over and/or behind their store. THese were called bodega and most were open from 7 am til 10 pm. Didn’t see many cats however in these stores, cats are not very popular in Peru, I fear.
    In The Netherlands you see cats in lunchrooms and bars and some have real strong personalities. I love that. Sometimes I come back just to see how the cat’s doing.

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  2. In my neck of the woods most corner stores are owned by Indians or Iranians. The Latin shops are mostly owned by Mexicans, and many times have a butcher shop along with a small restaurant. I don’t frequent them often, since I don’t eat out much. I’ve never seen a cat in any of them. But I like the idea.

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  3. I grew up in the 60’s (which seemed a lot longer then than it was) and I remember the small “mom & pop” stores that peppered the suburban communities. They sold a little bit of everything, but mostly goodies for us kids. They were even deep in residential areas with maybe two parking spaces. “Zoning” was apparently very flexible, because the traffic was mostly foot from the neighborhoods, though us kids knew where the “best” candy was and we rode our bikes far to get it. There also was a company called “Helms” which drove boxy little vans that brought fresh baked goods down every street (like the ice cream trucks still do). My favorite was jelly donuts. All of that gave way to the local Liquor store that sold candy as well. All kinds of establishments (candy, toy, hardware, bakery, library, post office, nursery) had some kind of pet (a cat, bird or dog) that was for everyone’s company more than anything. They did add a living presence, and were almost expected to be there. We took them for granted. They brought a smile to everyone’s face and were considered good neighborly or just good business by the owners. Those days are gone in this panicky, litigious society we’ve crafted. How sad.

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    • Oh my gosh this just came to me and I dug it up; photos of “Mort” our mascot shop-dog at my dad’s Atlantic Richfield service station in Manhattan Beach, Calif. circa 1972 I believe. My first car (a Plymouth Valiant) is in the background behind him. I put the rain coat on him. Those were the days when people weren’t afraid of dogs because dogs were our friends, unlike now when pit bulls have changed all that. Mort was standing guard of this car while the trunk was open, though he wouldn’t bite anyone.

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