Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series featuring cats of the Sacramento area.
A pair of tuxedo cats, Ming (left) and Maggie, of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery do their best to assist with the business’s incoming e-mail messages. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery
Cat lovers rejoice! A movement to make Sacramento a “cat capital” begins right here.
Sure, this is an unofficial movement, but such an action has to begin somewhere.
Our city is already recognized for a variety of things, including one of its most historic notorieties, its official designation as the “Camellia Capital of the World.”
But with a tour around the Sacramento area, it is clear that we are missing the mark when it comes to honoring one of the city’s most cherished animals – the cat.
Signs of the city’s deep affection for cats are all around us from the names of school mascots such as the Lions of McClatchy High, the Cougars of Kennedy High and the Panthers of Sacramento City College to cat-related statuary and details within local architecture.
Shop cats Ming (bottom) and Maggie find unique places to hang out at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery
A close look at the 92-year-old Central Library building at 828 I St. and across the street from the library at the 77-year-old post office, for instance, reveals images of the heads of lions.
A lion’s head fountain is located behind the Julia Morgan House at 3731 T Street.
Additionally, lion statuary can be seen in such places as in front of McClatchy High and in front of a few buildings on 22nd Street, between S and V streets.
One of the more telling signs that Sacramento is already at least an unofficial “cat capital” is the fact that cat ownership is not always a residential affair.
And those who find this statement confusing are certainly not familiar with the many “shop cats” of the Sacramento area.
Among these shop cats is Ace, an 11-pound, white and gray Maine Coon cat at Ace Hardware at 4005 Manzanita Ave., Ste. 24 in
Ming, a shop cat at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery, blends in with the scenery of this local business. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery
Harley Cowger, a sales floor employee at the hardware store, said that Ace selected the store as his home.
“(Ace) was a feral cat and he walked in here one day (about seven months ago) and hasn’t decided to leave yet,” Cowger said. “He has free range and he has his own little apartment out back and he pretty much does what he wants. Customers love him and he even has his own Facebook (Web site) fans.
But Internet presence as a Sacramento cat is not exclusive to Ace, as Ming and Maggie, a pair of tuxedo cats at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery at 4681 Fair Oaks Blvd., also have their own pages on the Web site www.fairoaksblvdnursery.com.
In praising Ming, Candie Abke, the nursery’s gift shop manager, said that Ming has excelled in customer service through greeting customers, following them around and even riding in the carts of some customers. She added that Maggie is a biter and is thus still in training.
Despite their contrasting demeanors, Ming and Maggie both receive royal treatment and sleep in a “cat palace” bed at the nursery.
Like many cats, Ace of Ace Hardware in Carmichael finds no problem with blocking the view of a computer monitor. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware
East Sacramento certainly does not strike out when it comes to shop cats, as the area has at least one such cat.
Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center at 5601 Folsom Blvd. is home to Caspar, one of the oldest and largest shop cats in the city.
Weighing about 18 pounds, Caspar actually appears even larger than her weight may specify. But many people who know her best say that she is also “a lot of fluff.”
Talini’s manager Jill Franklin recently related the story of how Caspar became a resident of Talini’s about 12 years ago.
“She was a feral cat,” Franklin said. “She was a little kitten and she used to hide (behind the store). She was just too cute for anyone to resist, so we started feeding her. At first, she wouldn’t let anyone touch her and she would just kind of follow us around through the plants at the nursery like a little ghost, so we named her Caspar. She (later) warmed up to us and she’s been our little shop cat ever since.”
Franklin added that throughout the years, Caspar has developed such a large fan club that many people stop by the nursery for the lone purpose of visiting this very popular shop cat.
There are many images of cats throughout the Sacramento area, including this lion’s head image at the Central Library at 828 I St. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
“Some people come here and the first thing they ask is ‘Where’s the cat?’ or ‘Where’s Caspar?’ Franklin said. “They spend the whole time looking for the cat and not really wanting any plants.”
But people who arrive at local businesses to simply visit shop cats is a common theme for any such store with a resident cat.
Corey Okada, a clerk at Beers Books at 915 S Street, said that Raffles, the store’s cat who was named after a character in a book featuring a cat burglar, also has her own fan club.
“(Raffles) has quite the following,” Okada said. “She’s the perfect cat to be a store cat. She gets petted all day and doesn’t mind, unlike a lot of cats. People love her and come in just to see her.”
Two of the more unique shop cats in Sacramento are Ti and Teva, who roam on long leashes in the customer lounge of Black Rock Auto at 615 15th Street #A.
Black Rock Manager Mark Pflepsen said that these rescued strays have adapted to become some of the friendliest cats he has ever seen.
Roy Van Meter, assistant manager of Ace Hardware in Carmichael, holds the business’s shop cat, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware
“They are super friendly,” Pflepsen said. “You can take either cat and push them down, roll them upside down and play mop with them and slide them around and they just love it.”
In the Land Park area, the longtime, local record store, Records at 1618 Broadway, is home to Joey, about a six-year-old cat who also resided at the store’s previous location on the K Street Mall.
There is something about literature and cats that go well together and perhaps this is why bookstores are one of the more common businesses with shop cats.
Unfortunately, the two shop cats of one of the city’s more cat-friendly bookstores, Time Tested Books at 1114 21st Street, passed away about five years ago. But the store still shows its love for cats with its wooden cat on wheels and a wooden cat that sits above the business’s records.
With apologies to Caspar, a 23-pound cat at Richard L. Press Fine Books at 1831 F St. #A likely holds the title of the heaviest shop cat in Sacramento.
Describing the cat, Richard L. Press, the business’s owner, said, “His name is Arshile. Everybody says that it’s a Maine Coon, but Maine Coons have fluffy tails, supposedly. This is not a fluffy tail. This is a tabby, but he’s a giant.”
Press, who previously owned a shop cat, named Willow, said that Arshile appears quite often on a video about his store. The link for the video is www.vimeo.com/18289183.
Ming of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery is among the Sacramento area’s most popular and friendly shop cats. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery
The presence of Sacramento area cats on the Internet can also be found on the Web site, www.youtube.com. The site includes various Sacramento area feline-related videos, ranging from a collection of photographs of Clarice the cat set to the music of Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” to a story of a cat that allegedly saved the life of its owner during a fire.
And from the Sacramento music scene, there is a band, called Fish Cat Fish, and a widely recognized image used by the Deftones, one of the most popular bands to emerge from the capital city, is that of a “screaming” (actually yawning) kitten.
Cat fever even extends across the Sacramento River, as is apparent through the city of Davis’ B&L Bike Shop, which is home to a shop cat, named Milo.
But perhaps no greater tribute to cats can be found west of the capital city than at West Sacramento’s Raley Field, which is home to the extremely popular Sacramento River Cats Pacific Coast League baseball team and the team’s mascot Dinger the cat.
The team is appropriately named when considering the many feral cats that reside along the eastern and western banks of the river.
Although many local residents are not fond of the fact that the non-baseball river cats and many alley cats of the downtown/midtown area run free with no owners, these cats provide further evidence of Sacramento’s need to be officially recognized as a “cat city.”
With no committee members, no committee, no official stand by this publication and no other known mention of this movement besides this informational, thought-provoking article, Sacramento’s potential prominence as an official “cat city” is obviously lacking its much needed support.
The shop cat of Ace Hardware at 4005 Manzanita Ave. is most appropriately named, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware
But as a bit of encouragement for those who are hesitating to support this issue, the following modified quote of Mark Twain – apologies to Mr. Clemens! – should be remembered: “It’s not the size of the cat lover in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the cat lover.”
Despite the existence of much time before the November election, attempting to obtain official “cat city” status should be no easy endeavor.
But whatever happens, one thing is for sure – cat fever is strong in the Sacramento area.
Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center in East Sacramento is home to the very blue-eyed Caspar the cat. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong