Tamar Arslanian knows that shop cats aren’t just cute, they can play a vital role in a city like New York that can feel a bit cold and brutal at times.
It all started when she started posting photos of two shop cats in her neighborhood — Jack, who lives at a wine shop and Kitty, who resides at a pilates studio — on social media, and was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest of her fellow New Yorkers. Many of them had favorite local shop cats of their own.
“It’s then I began to realize how pervasive shop cats were in the city, and the important role they played in adding a touch of warmth – a sense of community even – in a place that can sometimes feel overwhelming and impersonal,” she told HuffPost in an email.
That realization inspired Arslanian to write “Shop Cats of New York,” a book that explores the lesser-known lives of the city’s most adored felines. She teamed up with photographer Andrew Marttila, who shot gorgeous portraits of the book’s furry stars.
Arslanian had some important criteria for which cats she included.
“First and foremost, I wanted to to feel confident the cats were well cared for and beloved,” she said.
As it turns out, she was pleasantly surprised by just how great the cats’ lives seemed to be.
“My biggest ‘ah ha’ was realizing the level of stimulation and attention these cats received in comparison to most house cats, mine included,” she said. “I see my cats for about an hour before work and a few hours in the evenings during the week, but I can’t say I’m actively playing with them for very long. It made me realize the level of enrichment these cats were receiving on a daily basis. In some ways they could be viewed as having fuller lives than most cats living in more traditional homes.”
That’s one reason why Arslanian would like to see more animal shelters and rescue groups be open to adopting out cats to businesses, not just traditional residences.
“Businesses could be vetted as are most adopters, and assessed to ensure the business and cat are a good fit for one another,” she said, noting that of course not all cats have personalities that would be suited to that environment.
See a selection of Marttila’s photos from the book next.