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.

Where Did the Phrase 'Red Herring' Come From? Darmell Darmell

You may have seen a red herring in a recent book or movie, but you probably only realized it after the fact. These misleading clues are designed to trick you into drawing an incorrect conclusion, and they're a popular ploy among storytellers of all stripes.

If you've seen or read the Harry Potter series—and really, who hasn’t?—then you may recall some of the many instances where J.K. Rowling employed this literary device. That endearing plot twist about the nature of Snape's character, for example, is likely one of the longest-running red herrings ever written.

Sometimes they aren't even subtle. Agatha Christie's murder mystery And Then There Were None directly mentions red herring in reference to a character's death, and a statue of a red herring appears in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Perhaps most blatantly, a character in the cartoon A Pup Named Scooby-Doo who was constantly being blamed for myriad crimes was named—you guessed it—Red Herring.

But where does this literary device come from, and why is it named after a fish? For a bit of background: herring are naturally a silvery hue, but they turn reddish-brown when they're smoked. Long before refrigerators were invented, this was done to preserve the fish for months at a time. They can also be pretty smelly. As Gizmodo's io9 blog points out, it was believed that red herring were dragged against the ground to help train hounds to sniff out prey in the 17th century. Another theory was that escaped prisoners used the fish to cover their tracks and confuse the dogs that tailed them.

However, io9 notes that red herring were actually used to train horses rather than dogs, and only if the preferred choice—a dead cat—wasn't available. The idea was that the horses would get used to following the scent trail, which in turn would make them less likely to get spooked while "following the hounds amid the noise and bustle of a fox hunt," notes British etymologist and writer Michael Quinion, who researched the origin of the phrase red herring.

The actual origin of the figurative sense of the phrase can be traced back to the early 1800s. Around this time, English journalist William Cobbett wrote a presumably fictional story about how he had used red herring as a boy to throw hounds off the scent of a hare. He elaborated on this anecdote and used it to criticize some of his fellow journalists. "He used the story as a metaphor to decry the press, which had allowed itself to be misled by false information about a supposed defeat of Napoleon," Quinion writes in a blog. "This caused them to take their attention off important domestic matters."

According to Quinion, an extended version of this story was printed in 1833, and the idiom spread from there. Although many people are more familiar with red herrings in pop culture, they also crop up in political spheres and debates of all kinds. Robert J. Gula, the author of Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language, defines a red herring as "a detail or remark inserted into a discussion, either intentionally or unintentionally, that sidetracks the discussion."

The goal is to distract the listener or opponent from the original topic, and it's considered a type of flawed reasoning—or, more fancifully, a logical fallacy. This application of red herring seems to be more in line with its original usage, but as Quinion notes: "This does nothing to change the sense of red herring, of course: it's been for too long a fixed part of our vocabulary for it to change. But at least we now know its origin. Another obscure etymology has been nailed down."

What Is the Shelf Life of Donated Eyes?

Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

I can only answer for cornea and eye donation.

The FDA does all oversight (no pun intended) of organ disposition.

The main organs—heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, etc.—are transplanted within hours. They are just not viable if they are not being perfused constantly.

The other tissues—like bone, skin, tendons, etc.—do not need to be transplanted immediately. But I am not sure on the regulations of when they need to be transplanted.

With the eyes, there are four tissues that can be recovered.

We recover whole eyes for research and education purposes. These usually go much faster, but we can hold them up to a year.

Conjunctiva can also be recovered; conjunctiva is a clear covering over most of the eye (it is what gets irritated when you have pink eye). I have been working as a recovery tech for five years, and our office has not had a request for "conj" in all that time. I believe it is mostly used for research, but I could be wrong.

Sclera is the white area of your eye. It is fairly thick and flexible. If you have ever touched a reptile egg, that is what it reminds me of. We recover sclera for transplant. They use it for several things, but mainly to patch punctures. Similar to if you pop the inner tube of your bike and repair it. Sclera can also be used to repair ear drums. We can hold on to this for up to a year.

The main thing we recover is corneas. In the U.S., we must transplant these within seven days of recovery. (Recovery is usually within hours of death, but we can push it up to 20 hours after if needed.) Sometimes we have more corneas than we need, and then they are shipped overseas and transplanted up to 14 days after recovery. There is no real different outcome with the later transplant time, but the FDA in the U.S. made the rules. (You can sign up to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor here.)

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