Bodega cat sleeping on a stack of groceries.
(Photo: istolethetv/Flickr)

Ah, bodega cats. Whether they're basking on the warm, sunny pavement outside or snoozing indoors behind a protective stack of ramen noodles, these kitties are an integral part of the urban landscape and a key thread in the tapestry that makes up the "New York experience."

"Getting to know your local bodega cat, like knowing your deli sandwich guy or your neighbors, makes living in the city much less isolating," Maxine Anderson, a resident of Upper Manhattan, tells MNN.

Fluffy bodega cat lounging outside a shop
(Photo: v_solid_/Instagram)

These fluffy fixtures of neighborhood convenience shops have been around the city for many years, but it was only recently that their cult following expanded to a national scale thanks to the cat-obsessed tendencies of the Internet.

Over the past few years, several social media accounts dedicated to the felines have begun popping up, perhaps the most notable being Bodega Cats of Instagram. And in 2014, New York public radio station WNYC shot a short film series titled "Bodega Cats in Their Own Words," which explores the colorful lives of different shop kitties from around the city.

Bodega cat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
(Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr)

While these shop kitties are a novelty to tourists and newbie New Yorkers, it's important to tread carefully when photographing them. After all, bodegas are private businesses on private property.

"Photographing bodega cats in my 'hood is kind of a faux pas," Anderson explains. "People look at you like you're a health department narc."

Health department concerns aside, there's also the issue of respecting the animal's boundaries. If you take a moment to really think about what it would be like to be in their paws, you have to admit there's nothing creepier than a stranger getting all up in your personal space and snapping photos of you.

Of course, if you have developed a friendly relationship with the kitty and the shop staff over the years, this might not be a big issue, but it's always a good idea to ask first. Once you overcome these hurdles, you can capture truly excellent bodega cat photography:

Bodega cat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
(Photo: Matt Jiggins/Flickr)
Bodega counter cat
(Photo: khags42/Instagram)
Bodega cat balancing on ATM
(Photo: Rob Behnke)
Bodega cat balancing on a case of beer
(Photo: rosiber90/Instagram)
Mama cat in a bodega
(Photo: Pete Jelliffe/Flickr)
Tabby bodega cat
(Photo: The All-Nite Images/Flickr)

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.