Bookstore Cats Enjoy Long Shelf Lives


There’s nothing quite like spending time in a neighborhood bookstore. There’s something magical about walking down those often creaky floorboards, surveying thousands of books inviting you into countless words from alternate universes to the dark hallways of an author’s memories.

And it doesn’t hurt if there’s a cat around.

A bookstore cat is a shop’s mascot and keeper, equally adept at charming customers and, when the lights go out, chasing away rodents. And so, the San Francisco Chronicle helps us to get to know some of these purry, furry hosts. The profiles below were submitted by Northern California bookstores.

Ash (Borderlands Books, San Francisco)

  • Years in store: 2
  • Favorite food: Freeze-dried chicken / whatever you’re eating
  • Favorite place to sleep: The storeroom couch or in a box of used books awaiting review
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: About eight hours
  • Attitude toward customers: Random and capricious (i.e. “You’re interesting! Will you pet me? Can I eat you? Oh, look, dust!”)
  • Most egregious offense: Left tooth marks in the corners of an entire window display’s worth of books!
  • Most memorable moment: Ash is a hairless cat (a Sphynx). At an author event with best-seller China Miville, she snuck up behind him, stood on his shoulder and snuggled her bald self against his shaved head! Luckily Mr. Miville was a good sport and seemed to find it charming.

Bookie (Crosswinds Books, Watsonville)

  • Years in store: 13
  • Favorite food: Fancy Feast – but only if it has gravy
  • Favorite place to sleep:Bed on children’s sales counter
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: Usually awake from opening (10 a.m.) until about 1 p.m.
  • Attitude toward customers: Loves to be petted but not picked up
  • Most egregious offense: Catching mice outside and releasing them in the store. But that was in his younger days. He doesn’t hunt anymore.
  • Most memorable moment: He visited the sports store at the end of the building. Curled up on a 49er sweatshirt, went to sleep and got locked in for the evening.

Calvin (Discount Books, Orionville)

  • Years in store: 12
  • Favorite food: Atta Cat Cat Food. He never liked moist food.
  • Favorite place to sleep: Under a table, in front of the counter
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: Five hours
  • Attitude toward customers: Extremely friendly and passive. His name is well known all over town. People go away for years, then come back asking about him.
  • Most egregious offense: He used to chew the corners of the most expensive hardcover books when he was a kitten. He is getting wiser.
  • Most memorable moment: One time Calvin surprised a woman wearing a skirt when she was trying to reach the upper shelf for a book. Calvin went under her skirt. The woman did not know that we had a cat. She was so shocked and afraid to the degree that she started yelling frantically.

Ginger (Orinda Books, Orinda)

  • Years in store: 3
  • Favorite food: Fancy Feast
  • Favorite place to sleep: Everywhere, but especially in a large planter by the front door
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: Three hours — tops
  • Attitude toward customers: Demands attention
  • Most egregious offense: Climbed Christmas tree in storefront window and sent it crashing.
  • Most memorable moment: Whenever one of our regular customers, who uses a walker, comes into the store, Ginger dashes to meet her at the front door, hops onto the shelf/seat and rides around the store until the customer is finished shopping.

Parit and Sabrina (Pegasus, Downtown Berkeley)

  • Years in store: 3.2
  • Favorite food: Greenies; Parit’s food
  • Favorite place to sleep: In a box, neck deep in packing paper; hidden away in back room
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: One to two hours
  • Attitude toward customers: Indifferent; petting machines
  • Most egregious offense: Beating up a customer’s dog; nothing – she’s an angel.
  • Most memorable moment: Once spent the day sleeping on the top shelf of fiction (about 8 feet up); every morning, when she looks out the front door waiting for breakfast.

Sam and Trouble (The Other Change of Hobbit, Berkeley)

  • Years in store: 2
  • Favorite food: Anything
  • Favorite place to sleep: Anywhere; will change from week to week, as they own the whole place
  • Estimated length of time, per day, spent not sleeping: We enforce nap time from 3-5 p.m., but they are up and about most of the rest of the day.
  • Attitude toward customers: Sam: “Is that my shoulder to wrap around?” Trouble: “What-evah!”
  • Most egregious offense: Sam jumping on customer’s shoulders without warning or invitation.
  • Most memorable moment: In the car during our move in April, Sam was cowering at the back of the cage while his sister was up and around wondering “Where are we going?” Once we had their cage in place at the new storefront, Trouble was out the door, sniffing boxes and old familiar shelves, while her brother slunk along behind her, waiting for her to OK each item and location.

[Source: San Francisco Chronicle/]

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