In 2010, an IKEA store in England made the curious choice to release 100 cats into its ultra-modern, slat-supported Scandinavian midst. Scant detail exists on the rationale behind the experiment. But the results—to which the YouTube videos of leaping, bounding, box-occupying felines can attest—are splendid.
The relationship between cats and stores is a longstanding one. Everyone knows a card shop or knitting nook or bookstore with a resident kitty. The regulars at these places likely know the cats by name, and may even drop in on the store when they haven’t a thing to buy—just to visit the cat.
And why not? Every store should have such a source of such pure joy resident amongst its dry goods.
That’s what photographer Marcel Heijnen was no doubt thinking in late 2015 when he discovered a cat perched on the counter of a shop in his Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood in Hong Kong. And it was this puss, Dau Ding, who inspired and took the cover spot on his book, Hong Kong Shop Cats.
Heijnen calls these lounging retail fixtures “beautiful photogenic subjects in their own right,” and the shops where they doze places where “time seems to have stood still, devoid of branding and all the other modern-day retail trickery we’ve grown accustomed to.”
This past November, “cat blogger” Tamar Arslanian got in on the store cat love with her book, Shop Cats of New York. “A cat differentiates a shop from the competition,” she said, about the business benefits of keeping a shop cat. “A cat gives a shop character and warmth. And if the cat is well cared for, it reflects well on management.
“If they care enough to welcome an animal into their business, they must be good people, and I’m more apt to spend my hard-earned dollar at a place with a shop cat than elsewhere. I have to believe I’m not alone in this regard.”