Luis Martinez, 42, has managed his brother’s grocery in East New York, Brooklyn, for two years. At first, despite weekly visits from an exterminator, the store’s inventory was ravaged constantly by nibbling vermin.
“Every night I had to put the bread in the freezer,” he said, pointing at shelves filled with bread and hamburger buns. “I was losing too much inventory. The chips and the Lipton soups all had holes in them.”
Then, last winter, a friend brought Mr. Martinez a marmalade kitten in need of a home. Mr. Martinez, who was skeptical of how one slinky kitten could fend off an army of hungry rats, set up a litter box in the back of the store, put down an old fleece jacket and named the kitten Junior.
Within two weeks, Mr. Martinez said, “a miracle.”
“Before you’d see giant rats running in off the streets into the store, but since Junior, no more,” he said.
Junior sometimes brings Mr. Martinez mouse carcasses as gifts, which he said bothers him less than the smell that permeates his store when the exterminator’s victims die and rot under a freezer.
Sadly, though, the same New York City health code that bans food stores from having rats and mice also makes it illegal for them to keep cats. That's a shame -- you can tell from reading the story how much these owners love their cats and even how much pride they take in them.
“That’s Oreo,” he said, as he lifted a tiny black cat with white paws into his arms and carried her like a football. “No one’s ever complained about cat hair in their sandwiches, and if she weren’t here, you bet there’d be bigger problems than hair.”
There's a blog devoted to covering these Big Apple felines, called, appropriately enough, Working Class Cats.