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A bodega cat in New York City (all images courtesy Rob Hitt)

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Who doesn’t like bodega cats? The feline sheriffs, tasked with warding off rodents and pests in New York’s convenience stores and delis, have long signified a unique and beloved local phenomenon.

Since 2012, Rob Hitt, a Brooklyn-based web developer and music producer, has been taking and collecting photographs of domesticated cats in bodegas across the city and posting them on his social media. Since then, his Twitter and Instagram accounts have gained a massive following, with hundreds of contributions featuring adorable bodega cats patrolling stores, perching on shelves among products, climbing onto ATM machines, or examining customers with a suspicious eye.

“After many nights getting off the subway coming home I’d stop by my local bodega to grab a quick bite, snap a photo of a cat, and throw it on my Instagram,” Hitt told Hyperallergic about the origins of his photography project. “Realizing my friends were more excited about the cats than my own photos, I decided to make the account since I saw it was making so many friends happy.”

While New York’s public health department codes prohibit bodega cats, they have been valuable assets to their owners, who prefer to pay the $200 to $350 fine for holding the cat than dealing with a rodent infestation, which can harm products while also incurring a penalty of $300.

As Hitt’s social media clout grew, he started an online shop selling bodega cats-themed merchandise, from shirts and tote bags to baby onesies. A portion of the profits goes to NYC animal rescue and trap–neuter–return organizations including FlatbushcatsTrapKingPets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) NY, and others. Hitt also promotes the work of such organizations on his blog.

Now, enjoy more pictures of bodega cats from across New York City:

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...