The CVS in the East Passyunk area has a store greeter. And he’s really furry.
Stroll into the pharmacy at 10th and Reed Streets most evenings, and an orange-and-white cat is hanging out near the entrance. He stares through the glass of the vestibule with his white ears and whiskers perked up, welcoming customers as they pass through. Sometimes he follows them inside.
The tabby’s been dubbed “CVS Cat.”
“Everyone in the area knows this cat,” said Liz DeMartino, who lives and works in the neighborhood. “He has brought smiles to so many people’s faces, so now we are looking for a happy ending for him.”
CVS Cat started coming to the store a handful of years ago. His owners lived one block away on South Ninth Street, and he’d follow them like a well-trained dog whenever they’d venture to the pharmacy. After the couple retrieved their prescriptions, often they’d head across the street to an Acme Market. CVS Cat would sit patiently in the parking lot until their return, when they would walk home together.
Then, several months ago, CVS Cat started showing up alone. Within weeks, his pharmacy trips became more regular, until he was dropping by daily. Word quickly spread around the neighborhood that the cat had been abandoned and sought comfort from his second home.
“I was told by someone whose previous landlord was friends with the couple that they moved to New Jersey,” said Margaret Forline, who lives three blocks away from the CVS. “They were an older couple, maybe in their 90s, and apparently they just left him behind.”
“CVS was already something familiar for him. I’m sure it’s just where he feels a sense of safety,” Forline said.
Forline has become CVS Cat’s number-one caretaker, feeding the cat most days of the week. He shows up regularly around 7 or 8 p.m., which is when Forline serves him dinner: one helping each of Friskies wet and dry food, placed near the entrance of the store. Naturally, CVS Cat has grown quite fond of her, seemingly able to sniff out her black Hyundai Elantra whenever she pulls up.
“One time, as I was walking out of the store, there he was — perched right on the roof of my car. It’s like he was patiently waiting for me to come out and feed him,” said Forline.
Other customers help feed him, too. CVS managers asked the staff not to comment, but employees were quick to say that aluminum cans of wet food are virtually a permanent fixture on the sidewalk out front.
It’s a common customer experience to come in for cold medicine and leave with cat food.
“I was having a really bad day and was sick, so I went to CVS and found him near the entrance,” said neighborhood resident Aubrey Backues. “He followed me inside and then started trailing me around as I went shopping. It was really cute to have this little kitty nuzzling my legs while picking out cough drops.”
Sometimes CVS Cat will exit the store with customers, too.
“We had just left the doctor’s after my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism, and we went to CVS to pick up medicine,” said local resident Yvanna Sherman. “My son was crying on the way out, and the cat started to follow us for two blocks. It was really touching, almost as if he picked up on how we felt, and he calmed my son down a lot.”
CVS Cat’s ability to improve people’s pharmacy experiences has won him a lot of support in the community.
“CVS is annoying. Waiting in lines is annoying. But seeing that cat makes me happy and relaxed,” said DeMartino. “As much as he brightens my day, though, I’d much rather see him in a home where he’s being loved day in and day out. That’s where he’ll thrive.”
At night, CVS Cat must leave his cozy perch on the newspaper stands just inside the store. (He alternates sleeping on Daily News and Inquirer stands, said DeMartino.) Neighbors see him out in the cold, wandering back and forth to his old home on Ninth Street.
“Sometimes it looks like his ears are ripped up, and I have a feeling they’re getting caught on the barbed wire that lines the fence [of the yard] next to where he lived,” said DeMartino.
“The cat’s well-fed, but it’s the shelter part that we’re worried about,” she said. “It’s getting really cold at night, and he needs to go to a vet.”
DeMartino has made it her mission to find him a home. She and a few other area residents have started posting about the cat in South Philly neighborhood Facebook groups.
“I think the fact that he looks like the cat emoji is hilarious,” said John Pettit, a commenter of one post in the South Silly group.
While certainly handsome and friendly for a street cat, the pumpkin-color kitty is known to be a little skittish at times and will go straight into attack mode if someone tries to pick him up. Those who know him well said he’d likely do best in a home with outdoor access and without other cats.
DeMartino picked up a cat carrier this week to help anyone who’s interested in catching and adopting him. She welcomes people to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.