The hardest working, cutest (and most well-read!) cats in America, all on one list.
There are plenty of reasons to plan road trips, but there aren’t any cuter itineraries than one full of America’s bookstore cats. Independent bookshops across the nation employ kitties as greeters, lap-warmers, creative directors, and social media mavens, combining two of the world’s favorite joys: books and cats! With the printed word becoming harder and harder to come by, small shops have noticed that kitties draw in loyal customers and increase business, so pack a bag and plan your trip around the U.S. to visit these quirky charmers who found more fame after being featured in the new book Bookstore Cats (Glitterati Incorporated) this autumn.
WHERE: Portland, Indiana
Shiva runs more than just a bookstore—she’s the Cat-in-Chief of an entire pet refuge in Portland, Indiana, and even extends her services beyond helping her fellow felines, occasionally fostering dogs, rabbits, and more. Her cat co-workers sometimes number as many as 15 at a time as each waits for adoption at Midwest Pet Refuge, where Shiva and her human counterpart, Tara, operate Cat Tales, a charity bookstore that supports the refuge. Shiva’s primary concern is choosing the best books to use as pillows, but she also assists Tara with coordinating veterinary care and helping the refuge’s pets find forever homes.
WHERE: Richmond, Virginia
WonTon Chop Suey wasn’t born with such an enticing name. Starting life as Lloyd, he ditched his original destiny and frequented Chop Suey Books on Richmond’s trendy Carytown neighborhood. Sneaking in through the store’s back window daily, the staff eventually assumed they had been adopted by WonTon, so they gifted him a collar and bestowed his culinary name upon him. The next day, a neighbor visited with “Lost Cat” signs featuring WonTon (known as Lloyd), but WonTon insisted on remaining at the bookstore and launching a literary career. He’s been a faithful employee since 2008 and spends most of his time ignoring patrons and walking across computer keyboards at inopportune times.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
WHERE: New Orleans, Louisiana
Isabel was once a fisherwoman who was abandoned after the BP oil spill of 2010, but when Michael, the owner of Crescent City Books on Baronne Street, offered a career as a bookstore cat, she decided it was time for a change and accepted the job. Michael was looking for a Maine Coon, known for their easy-going, friendly temperaments, and considered Isabel well qualified for the position. Named in homage to author Isabel Allende, she passes many a day napping between visits from her faithful followers. Since her first appearance in the press, of which she’s quite proud, Isabel has been amassing more fans every day and loves to receive them at Crescent City Books.
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
At 15 years old, Tuffie Tufferton is a consummate professional, consistently inspecting all boxes and packing materials before they’re shipped from Crooked House Books & Paper on NE 40th Avenue. She’s also an expert on the property’s best nap zones, uncannily locating the warmest spots on the premises. If you’re visiting in winter, look for her on a heating vent under a shelf. If you’re planning a summer stop-by, she’ll probably be sunning on the front porch. If she’s on a break, she’s probably bird-watching from the store’s front window. Why is she so familiar with all of Crooked House’s nooks and crannies? She’s been there since before the store even existed.
WHERE: Evergreen, Colorado
Twenty-one year old Lucy is no spring chicken, especially in cat years, but she’s as energetic (and loud) as ever, especially when it’s time for her lunch break during her shifts at Hearthfire Books & Treats. Technically, Lucy only works in the book side of the business, but she exerts her influence wherever she can, and consistently attempts, unsuccessfully, to infiltrate the tastier side of the store. She keeps Hearthfire glowing with her positivity and youthful spirit, and is especially fond of greeting new customers and old friends, particularly children. She’d rather not entertain any more dogs, though, so please don’t bring them along on your visit.
WHERE: North Hollywood, California
Zeus and his brother came to Iliad Bookshop after being born of a homeless man’s cat, and have been serving as brand ambassadors ever since. Zeus is particularly feisty and is highly skilled at scaling the store’s ladders, zipping up and down, probably in search of his own Olympus. When feeling particularly godlike, he has been known to leap from ladders to the shoulders of passing customers and ride them around the store. When small dogs have visited the shop, Zeus has been known to stalk them, but he steers well clear of larger breeds. When not working, he takes divine naps on a stack of boxes in the back corner of the shop.
WHERE: North Hollywood, California
Apollo may be Zeus’ son in Greek Mythology, but at Iliad Bookshop, they’re brothers. Being less extraverted than his brother hasn’t stopped Apollo from reaching greater fame, and he considers himself the most photographed cat in North Hollywood. One of his photos alone has racked up more than 100,000 views on Tumblr, and he’s been hunting fame ever since. This may be the reason he’s often found passed out by the computer monitors at Iliad’s sales desk. If you come to the shop and sit down to preview a book (preferably the one he’s in), don’t be surprised if he climbs into your lap to check it out with you.
WHERE: Wellsboro, Pennsylvania
From My Shelf Books & Gifts has been a foster home to many a wayward cat over the years, helping them to socialize and meet potential fur-ever families, but Huckleberry and his brother were the first to demand full-time positions at the bookstore. Huck takes an active role in the business side of the shop, diligently tailing store owner, Kevin, from task to task as he masters the ins and outs of bookselling, and diligently supervises all shop activity.
Book a Hotel
Tiny the Usurper
WHERE: Brooklyn, New York
Tiny is huge in Japan. He was once on the cover of a Japanese bestseller and has appeared on Japanese television enough that he still gets visits from his foreign fans at his shop, Community Bookstore, halfway across the world in Brooklyn. Despite finding fame, Tiny hasn’t forgotten his humble origin as a street cat, born the runt of a litter. He spends most of his time napping in cozy corners and taking meals when awake, but he isn’t entirely averse to greeting customers here and there, though he’s no fan of loud dogs or rambunctious children. Some in the neighborhood even call him “that grouchy cat,” but his questionable rep isn’t hindering his international fame.
WHERE: Rosendale, New York
Rosita Slice-A-Pizza, the puniest gal in town, is a relatively new arrival to Postmark Books on Main Street. She’s hoping to eventually replace veteran shop cat Rudie who, at 18, spends an awful lot of her time sleeping on the job. Rose, on the other hand, is a ball of energy—sometimes too much—and regularly stalks customers from atop the store’s shelves. Don’t be fooled, though—even Rosita Slice-A-Pizza needs a nap from time to time. When she’s tired, she’s hell-bent on having her favorite fuzzy laptop placed in exactly the right spot on the counter, and she’ll often nap until she’s interrupted by the sound of her brother, Boba Wilbur Bumpus, toppling book displays in a desperate plea for attention from nearby customers.
WHERE: San Jose, California
Emma and her six-year-old brother Ender made their way from a San Jose shelter to Recycle Bookstore, where they were tasked with making the shop cozier and giving it a real at-home feeling. Ender is on the shy side, preferring to nap or play in private, but Emma works hard enough for the both of them, following customers around the store and test-driving the occasional lap, hoping to hear a passage from a good book. Their servant, Eric, who mistakenly calls himself the store’s “owner,” has noticed that customers tend to head straight for the cats before book-hunting, so they seem to be fulfilling their social missions well and have a long future ahead of them at Recycle Bookstore.
WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee
One of Charlotte’s worst decisions turned out to be her best—attempting to cross a four-lane highway as a kitten, she was discovered by the owners of Rhino Booksellers and took up her post within the business. Shy at first, she’s now keen on chatting with customers and reviewing boxes of new books brought in by her patrons, having a keen sense of which ones will best double as prime nap perches. Raised in Nashville, it’s no surprise that Charlotte adores the guitar, and can’t help but rub her face all over the instrument and lick the strings whenever someone plays.
WHERE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Amelia may not be the most famous cat in the world, but she could be the only one with her own holiday. Amelia Cat Day is celebrated annually on Cotton Street in Philadelphia, and fans often line up to pet her in the Parlor of Peculiarities, The Spiral Bookcase’s reading room, where Amelia holds court in her favorite worn-out chair–ahem, “throne.” Amelia has once been named Best Bookstore Cat (2014), but she has her struggles, too—she suffers from hyperthyroidism and her costly medical care racks up some serious bills. Luckily, her adoring legion of fans regularly contributes to her well being by donating to Amelia’s Medical Fund.
WHERE: Niantic, Connecticut
There are quite a few bookstore cats at The Book Barn, but the clear ruler among them is the store’s only female feline, Mao. Though she’s tiny enough to be mistaken for a kitten, she’s about ten years old, and has enough life experience to tell you a good tale . . . all day long. Most of Mao’s many missives are delivered with a strong sense of urgency and, while she may have opinions on just about everything, there’s one topic that’s clearly the most important: The gravy on her kibble better be exactly as she prefers it, or someone’s gonna get it.
WHERE: Baltimore, Maryland
Sinclair is both Official Greeter and Store Trainer at the Kelmscott Bookshop on W 25th Street. Beyond simply welcoming customers at the front door, he enjoys guiding them through the stacks, swatting them gently when he’s identified just the right book for them. He is currently training his apprentice, Pierre, who dutifully follows behind but is not yet bold enough to make his own astute recommendations. Once an abandoned boy found alone in an apartment building, Sinclair has cat-apulted to shop management in just five years.
WHERE: Lawrence, Kansas
Named for New Zealand’s well-known mystery author, Ngaio Marsh, this sleepy cat prefers something of a nocturnal lifestyle, napping the days away before taking her evening post at the front door of The Raven Book Store, meowing at passersby and beckoning them inside. Your best bet for some quality time with this quirky cat is to take a seat in the store and cross your fingers. She doesn’t like to be picked up, but she does enjoy perusing available laps and leaping into the most enticing one. If the weather’s decent and you don’t see her in the store, she could be out front sleeping on the bench with her likeness painted on it.
WHERE: Lawrence, Kansas
Dash came to The Raven Book Store in 2011, along with his gal pal, Ngaio. While he doesn’t exactly wear the pants in the relationship and is only half Ngaio’s age, what he lacks for in experience he makes up for in volume. An oversize tabby with a charming smile and crinkly eyes, he has a lot to say and, if you’re not paying attention to his wise words, he may tap your leg to regain your attention. He can often be found lounging on the counter, waiting for customers to chat with, but be carefully when bestowing kisses—his appetite is as large as he is, and he has an unusual fondness for chewing long hair.