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Who Knew Cat Tchotchke Thrifting Could Be So Difficult?!

In your mind, thrift stores are full of cat tchotchkes. In reality, they're full of clowns, dogs, angels, and bunnies. We found this out the hard way, natch.

Catster HQ  |  Mar 22nd 2012


After we interviewed the Teal Cat Project and learned about how they transform unwanted cat tchotchkes into stylish ornaments to raise money for cat charities, we decided to help them out by sending them as many feline statuettes as we could find.

We wouldn’t be good Catster editors if we didn’t already have a bunch of cute kitty ornaments at home, so we rounded up a few that we’d gathered over the years. (We’re not hoarders — well, not really — so it wasn’t too painful to part with them.)

One sunny winter afternoon, we set off to scour the thrift stores of San Francisco’s Mission District. We started at Thrift Town, where we were convinced we’d fill a shopping cart, since the store’s second floor is full of housewares, artwork, and tchotchkes.

We were disappointed. Rows upon rows of clowns, puppies, teddies, and cherubs stared back at us from the shelves, but there wasn’t a single cat to be seen.

We walked around the corner to Community Thrift on Valencia Street, where we struck out again, although we did find this handmade cat-in-hammock objet d’art among the candles and salt shakers.

Then we saw this raggedy-looking kitty with enormous eyes that freaked us both out. It was made from real fur, although we couldn’t tell what unfortunate critter it was made from.

Where were all the cats? Had the clown figurines locked baggy-sleeved arms to prevent them coming out of the storeroom? We decided that other cat-friendly folk must be buying them all up for their own clowders, or saving them for the Teal Cat Project.

At a Goodwill further down Mission Street, we squealed when we spotted this little kitty, but she didn’t fit the Teal Cat Project’s specifications because she’s useful and not merely decorative. Drat!

We were starting to get the feeling that the abandoned ornaments of the world were mocking us. We’d scored precisely nothing, and we were getting tired — just like this puppy.

Feeling disheartened, we took a swift doughnut break and drove to the huge Goodwill in the Outer Mission, declaring this to be our last stop. We were Officially Over It.

We trudged in, footsore and irritated. Then we saw it. Celestial cat choirs began to sing — melodically. WE HAD FOUND A CAT TCHOTCHKE.

We elbowed other shoppers out of the way and pounced on it before anyone else could grab it. Finally, something to show for a long day’s thrifting.

That weekend, a quick trip to the Alemany Flea Market in Bernal Heights started off unpromisingly. There were china and clay dogs, monkeys, clowns, and garden elephants, but again, no cats.

Then we found a couple of stalls full of feline knickknacks and snatched them up for mere pennies. We found five cats in ten minutes — an awesome thrift score!

The next day, we rolled the kitty tchotchkes in layers of bubble wrap and newspaper and mailed them to the Teal Cat folks in Nebraska, hoping they’d survive the journey intact. Isa told us they arrived safely.

If you recognize one of these kitties because it came to you in its new guise as a Teal Cat, it must be a bit like learning about its adoption history! Give it a little head-scritch from the gang at Catster, and tell it we said hi.

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