Are Bodega Cats Legal?

The All-Nite Images, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
The All-Nite Images, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

There are more than 10,000 bodegas—Latin American Spanish for "small neighborhood store" or grocery store—across New York City's five boroughs. In addition to selling food and goods, the stores are an important part of the community—not to mention a place where you can see, and pet, bodega cats.

These working felines roam the stores, greeting customers and lounging on countertops or nestling in shopping baskets. The internet adores them, devoting fan pages and Instagram accounts to the cats, whose sworn duty is to rid the shops of the vermin that can prompt city fines and spread disease.

Are they adorable? Yes. But are they legal? Not really.

A cat sits in the aisle of a bodega
Seth Werkheiser, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Cats fall under a prohibition upheld by the city's Department of Health and Hygiene as well as the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets that prevents any animal (other than fish or service dogs) from being on the premises where food and drinks are being sold: The felines could potentially shed hair and excrement around edible products, a clear violation of safety regulations. Fines for keeping a cat in a bodega or other food market can range from from $200 to $350, and for repeated violations can reach $2000.

But some argue that cats are far less of a health hazard than rats and a safer solution to the toxic chemicals used by exterminators. (Vermin killed by poison sometimes drop dead under freezers or in other narrow confines, stinking up the place before being located.) Even the presence of cats is thought to be a deterrent, with rats avoiding areas where they can smell a predator.

That's likely why there are few reports of bodegas being fined excessive amounts or shut down as a result of feline occupancy, despite the prohibition. Most often, even customers who are less than charmed by the furry sentinels will tolerate them. But because cats can leave behind fur, people with allergies may find shopping a sneeze-invoking experience. One Yelp user left the SK Deli Market in the East Village a one-star review because they harbored a cat, and they were immediately verbally assaulted by pro-bodega cat commenters. Subsequently, a pro-bodega cat contingent started a petition that logged 5870 signatures in an effort to legalize them, citing the city's Dining with Dogs law that permits canines in certain outdoor dining establishments.

There's clearly an emotional component to keeping the tradition of bodega cats alive, although science has recently called into question their actual efficacy in controlling rodent populations. Researchers at Fordham University looked at a recycling facility in Brooklyn that was overrun by both rats and cats. Through the use of surveillance and radio frequency ID tags clipped to the vermin, they found that cats generally paid little mind to the rats scurrying around. Out of 306 videos taken over a period of six months, the Fordham team recorded just two kills (and one unsuccessful attempt), barely making a dent in the cascade of rats in the buildings. (The rats did, however, tend to run the opposite way when encountering a cat.)

A cat sits on the counter of a bodega
The All-Nite Images, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Gregory Glass, a professor at the University of Florida, told Scientific American that contrary to popular belief, cats aren't trigger-happy when it comes to rats. Once the rodents mature, they're often too big and formidable to mess with. Glass called cats kept around for rat control a "placebo."

So, unfortunately, bodega cats might not quite live up to their reputations. But, as a photographer for pointed out after being dispatched to photograph bodega cats in their natural habitat, that might miss the point. The cats seemed to bring people together and lighten their mood. Coupled with their likely deterrence of rats, it’s a net positive—if you can stand the fur.

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Geoview/iStock via Getty Images

When it comes to physical activity, few animals have as maligned a reputation as the sloth. The six sloth species, which call Brazil and Panama home, move with no urgency, having seemingly adapted to an existence that allows for a life lived in slow motion. But what makes sloths so sedate? And what horrible, poop-related price must they pay in order to maintain life in the slow lane?

According to HowStuffWorks, the sloth’s limited movements are primarily the result of their diet. Residing mainly in the canopy vines of Central and South American forests, sloths dine out on leaves, fruits, and buds. With virtually no fat or protein, sloths conserve energy by taking a leisurely approach to life. On average, a sloth will climb or travel roughly 125 feet per day. On land, it takes them roughly one minute to move just one foot.

A sloth’s digestive system matches their locomotion. After munching leaves using their lips—they have no incisors—it can take up to a month for their meals to be fully digested. And a sloth's metabolic rate is 40 to 45 percent slower than most mammals' to help compensate for their low caloric intake. With so little fuel to burn, a sloth makes the most of it.

Deliberate movement shouldn’t be confused for weakness, however. Sloths can hang from branches for hours, showing off some impressive stamina. And because they spend most of their time high up in trees, they have no need for rapid movement to evade predators.

There is, however, one major downside to the sloth's leisurely lifestyle. Owing to their meager diet, they typically only have to poop once per week. Like going in a public bathroom, this can be a stressful event, as it means going to the ground and risking detection by predators—which puts their lives on the line. Worse, that slow bowel motility means they’re trying to push out nearly one-third of their body weight in feces at a time. It's something to consider the next time you feel envious of their chill lifestyle.

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Are Any of the Scientific Instruments Left on the Moon By the Apollo Astronauts Still Functional?

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

C Stuart Hardwick:

The retroreflectors left as part of the Apollo Lunar Ranging Experiment are still fully functional, though their reflective efficiency has diminished over the years.

This deterioration is actually now delivering valuable data. The deterioration has multiple causes including micrometeorite impacts and dust deposition on the reflector surface, and chemical degradation of the mirror surface on the underside—among other things.

As technology has advanced, ground station sensitivity has been repeatedly upgraded faster than the reflectors have deteriorated. As a result, measurements have gotten better, not worse, and measurements of the degradation itself have, among other things, lent support to the idea that static electric charge gives the moon an ephemeral periodic near-surface pseudo-atmosphere of electrically levitating dust.

No other Apollo experiments on the moon remain functional. All the missions except the first included experiment packages powered by radiothermoelectric generators (RTGs), which operated until they were ordered to shut down on September 30, 1977. This was done to save money, but also because by then the RTGs could no longer power the transmitters or any instruments, and the control room used to maintain contact was needed for other purposes.

Because of fears that some problem might force Apollo 11 to abort back to orbit soon after landing, Apollo 11 deployed a simplified experiment package including a solar-powered seismometer which failed after 21 days.

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