BROOKLYN — When word got out that Holly Golightly, the cat who lived at Babbo's Books in Windsor Terrace, was gravely ill, customers were so worried that more than 60 of them chipped in to pay for her vet bill.
Store owner Leonora Stein knew people liked Holly, but she was shocked when it took just 34 hours to raise more than $1,100 in online donations.
"Faced with losing her, people were just incredibly generous," Stein said. "But it still surpassed my wildest imagination."
Such is the devotion inspired by store cats in Windsor Terrace and Park Slope, where felines are fixtures at many bodegas and shops. They serve as store mascots, neighborhood pets, and in some cases have attained near celebrity status.
Even the grumpy ones are beloved, and recently Brooklyn's store cats have inspired their own Flickr group, Tumblr page, New York Times profile, and even a faux documentary depicting them as vigilant guardians of the urban jungle.
"I've never seen a group of people take a liking or interest as much as they do in our cats," said Darius Sickles, manager of the shipping department at Park Slope Copy Center on Seventh Avenue near Carroll Street. "Customers come in just to see the cats."
The copy center's two cats, a brother and sister, are so celebrated that the store sells $1 postcards of the famous felines, who don't have official names. When photos of the cats were displayed as screensavers on the store's computers, people would come in to stare at the screens like they were watching a movie, Sickles said.
Customers bring them treats and toys, and one little girl named Zoey used to visit the kitties every morning. Sickles described the cats as "calm, cool, collected and totally chill." The male sometimes perches on customer's shoulders and licks their heads. On Tuesday, both cats quietly napped near the store's front window.
"They're resting — waiting for the next wave of people to enjoy their celebrity," Sickles said.
Across the street lives Ivy, the store cat at Neergaard Pharmacy, a queenly creature who's spoiled and eats nothing but Fancy Feast, an employee said.
In the next block is Queen Sheba, the mostly black cat at the Park Slope Candy Shop and newsstand on Seventh Avenue near Union Street, who was using a package of bottled water as a clawing toy on Monday.
At Community Bookstore on Seventh Avenue, store cat Tiny the Usurper even has his own Twitter feed, with 130 followers. A skilled predator, Tiny has presented his masters with two pigeons he's hunted on the mean streets of Park Slope, and he recently tangled with three raccoons.
Though Tiny sometimes takes swipes at little kids — one small boy nicknamed him "malo gato" after a close encounter — Tiny has won a devoted following. When the store closed recently so the TV show "Louie" could film there, one customer got very upset — not because she couldn't buy books, but because she couldn't visit Tiny, said store co-owner Ezra Goldstein.
Tiny once shared the store with another cat, Sir Majorie Lambshank III. Though deceased, Sir Marjorie was such a part of the store's identity that Random House recently shipped him a review copy of Rita Mae Brown's cat-centric "Sneaky Pie for President." (Random House also shipped a copy to Holly of Babbo's Books.)
Visitors to the Hallmark shop on Prospect Park West in Windsor Terrace will find two cats: Tiffany, an intelligent calico, and Sushi, who owner Diane Larkin described as "dumb as a doorpost," but very affectionate. The kitties, who enjoy pigeon watching from the store's large front window, were both strays rescued by Larkin, who regularly helps orphan cats find good homes.
Though Tiffany has been known to chew on merchandise, Larkin said the cats are good for business because they add to the store's neighborhoody feel.
"It makes people feel connected to the community," Larkin said of her cats.
Down the block, there's still a box of Friskies Seafood Sensations on the shelf at Babbo's Books, though store cat Holly didn't survive her recent bout with kidney disease. Stein offered to refund the people who donated for Holly's care, but most people asked her to give their money to Sean Casey Animal Rescue down in Kensington.
Stein plans to hold a memorial at the store at the end of the month so customers can publicly mark Holly's passing. Stein said Holly brought customers into the store, which probably helped sales. But she added that Holly served anoother function as well.
"It can get a little lonely when you're in a store all day," Stein said. "To have a living breathing animal that hangs out with you all day, that's nice."