Bodega cat

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A bodega cat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City

A bodega cat (also referred to as a deli cat, store cat, or shop cat) is a type of working cat that inhabits a bodega, which in New York City English refers to a convenience store or deli.[1][2] Much like farm cats, library cats, and ship cats, a bodega cat is typically a mixed breed cat kept as a form of biological pest control to manage or prevent rodent infestations.[3]

A bodega cat may be a domesticated cat that is kept by the bodega owner, or a semi-feral cat that the bodega owner attracts to the store through regular feeding. Public health departments typically prohibit bodega cats under food codes that ban live animals from establishments where consumable goods are sold.[1]


A bodega cat in Hudson Square, Manhattan, New York City

The term is derived from bodega, a Spanish word that translates to "storeroom" or "wine cellar".[4] It is typically used in New York City to refer to a convenience store that sells groceries, deli meats, sandwiches, soft drinks, and other general staples. The term is commonly associated with businesses in New York City[5] and other American cities with substantial Latino populations.


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene considers bodega cats a "general deficiency", citing concerns over the potential they pose for food contamination.[6] Under Chapter 23 of the Food Service Establishment Violation Penalty Schedule, establishments selling food that keep live animals that are not service animals or fish kept in tanks are subject to a fine ranging from $200 to $350.[7] Despite this, cats remain a ubiquitous presence at many of the more than 10,000 bodegas across New York City;[8] The New York Times reports that many bodega owners keep cats in spite of the law because they are seen as preferable to rodent infestations, which also carry a fine of $300.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Bodega cats are a part of internet culture, as well as New York City culture.[10] Multiple blogs and social media accounts are devoted to chronicling photographs of bodega cats across the city.[11][12][13] In 2019, a Saturday Night Live sketch starring John Mulaney parodied the musical Cats using a bodega cat.[14] That same year, a bodega cat at 71 Fresh Deli and Grocery in Kips Bay, Manhattan, was stolen from the store; the cat's theft was widely covered in New York City media, with The New York Times,[10] New York Daily News,[15] and NY1 reporting on the incident.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Foley, Catherine (3 April 2018). "Cities 101: Are Bodega Cats Actually Legal?". Untapped Cities. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  2. ^ Knafo, Saki (27 March 2009). "The Classic Bodega Takes a Star Turn". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  3. ^ Christensen, Jen (15 July 2016). "Are cats the ultimate weapon in public health?". CNN. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Definition of BODEGA". Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  5. ^ Wang, Hansi Lo (10 March 2017). "New York City Bodegas and the Generations Who Love Them". Code Switch. NPR. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  6. ^ Del Valle, Gabby (28 October 2016). "Adorable Petition Calls For The Legalization Of Bodega Cats". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 21 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  7. ^ "CHAPTER 23 – APPENDIX 23-C FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT AND NON RETAIL FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT PENALTY SCHEDULE" (PDF). New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  8. ^ Rossen, Jake (28 December 2018). "Are Bodega Cats Legal?". Mental Floss. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  9. ^ Hammer, Kate (21 December 2007). "To Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b Paybarah, Azi (15 May 2019). "A Bodega Cat Was Taken. The Neighborhood Wants Her Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Bodega Cats In Their Own Words". WNYC. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2019 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Gibbs, Constance (26 October 2016). "The claws are out: Don't mess with New York bodega cats". New York Daily News. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Meet New York City's bodega cats". Curbed. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Bodega Bathroom". Saturday Night Live. YouTube. 2 March 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  15. ^ Roman, Carla; Burke, Cathy (13 May 2019). "Beloved Lexington Ave. bodega cat Lexi missing, as bereft workers, neighbors go on the hunt". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  16. ^ Boone, Ruschell (13 May 2019). "Kittynapping: Manhattan Bodega Workers Seek Help Finding Beloved Cat They Say Was Stolen". NY1. Retrieved 21 October 2019.