WonTon the Bookstore Cat

WontonWhy are cats such big hits in a bookstore?

For a reader, nothing beats getting caught up in a page turner for hours on end. And cats have no problem lazing away the hours, dreaming of mice and butterflies. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon with my cat curled up on my lap and my book propped up on him.

Perhaps the customer who comes across a snoozing cat while browsing the shelves of a bookstore unconsciously makes the association of those relaxed cats with books and does what? Why, she buys out the store!

Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Virginia’s Carytown, tells an unusual story of how WonTon became his bookstore feline:

Aside from WonTon being our spirit animal, I don’t know if there are any short stories that sum him up. He did come to us in an interesting way: when we were at our old shop, we would leave a window open in the back, and one Spring a black and white cat started jumping through it into the store in the morning and hanging out with us all day. He was kind of aloof, but seemed to really enjoy just being around us. When evening rolled around, he would disappear out the back window, and wouldn’t be seen until the following morning.

After about 3 weeks of this, we decided that he had picked us as his home, and, not wanting someone to think he was a stray at night, we named him and put a collar and ID on him. As per his usual schedule, he left that night and came back through in the morning. Almost as soon as he jumped through our rear window, a girl who lived down the street from us came through the front door. “Can I post a lost cat flyer in your window,” she asked, then looked down at WonTon. “Oh, Lloyd! I found you. This is my missing cat!!!” Dumbfounded and heartbroken, the person working the counter let her leave the store with WonTon struggling in her arms.

Wonton3When I heard about this, I was curious. It seems that the girl only had one poster in her hand, not a stack as would be expected. It felt like she was targeting us in particular as a place that would help her find this missing cat. We pretty quickly put it together: WonTon was hanging with us during the days, and with her (as “Lloyd”) at night. When he had shown up the night before with a tag claiming him as ours, she decided she needed to put a claim of her own on him, and came up with the “lost cat” routine.

The store felt empty for a day, then, true to form, WonTon returned through the back window the next day, then the following day, then the day after that. I tracked down the girl with the “lost cat” posters and made a plea: WonTon/Lloyd appears to have chosen us during the day, and you at night. Can we share?

To my surprise, she made this counter offer: “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted him! He lives with his sister Voodoo now, and they don’t get along at all.If you want to keep him, please do!”

The rest is history. WonTon started happily spending the night with us, and a year later moved with us to Carytown. Every now and then, there are tales of a young woman coming into the shop to give love to “Lloyd”!

For more on Chop Suey Books, click here.

Do you have a favorite bookstore cat? Tell us about her or him.

 

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Comments

WonTon the Bookstore Cat — 4 Comments

  1. I love Chop Suey! I’ve spent hours there browsing and listening to music when it hosts the local John Cage MusiCircus. I read the first few chapters of Of Love and Other Demons sitting on the floor against a bookshelf right next to a friend playing classical guitar in the MusiCircus. Ward is such a great shop owner and community member. Thanks for sharing this story! But who chooses Lloyd and Voodoo as names for a pair of cats? 🙂

    • Melissa, It is a great store. People can be quite creative with cat names. Mine are Olive and Morris. Our first cat’s name was Marie and people thought that was funny.