San Francisco shop cat Tosca suddenly became an internet celebrity after someone posted an image of her on Twitter. Within two days, the picture generated 183K likes and over 26K retweets.
In the photo, Tosca, the black and white shop cat, sits on a stool at Nabila’s Natural wearing a red bow tie with a swirly pattern on it. She’s been a fixture at the shop for over five years and loves to greet customers.
“Found this fancy lookin cat in a San Francisco liquor store.”
Fancy indeed, as one person commented, “All he needs is a top hat & a monocle!” sharing a Pusheen cartoon cat.
Following the internet sensation, the local news declared San Francisco’s “most fancy looking shop cat” an internet celebrity.
❤️ Tosca the Fancy Shop Cat ❤️
So, where did Tosca the star come from anyway? She’s an 8 or 9-year old cat adopted by shop owner Ramiz Yousef and his wife Elena Rios back in 2016. They run the natural food and grocery store in an iconic neighborhood.
According to Rios, the couple found her at the local animal shelter, and she was already named Tosca after the Tosca Libretto opera by Puccini. Rather than changing Tosca’s name, they decided it fit her personality perfectly.
Recently, the opera was performed at the San Francisco Opera House.
When the couple approached, she was inside a cage and simply refused to be overlooked.
“We reached Tosca … and we tried to move to the next one, the next cage,” Rios told SFGATE. “She really got mad, and she did, like, [hissing sound] at Ramiz, and as soon as she did that, my husband knew she was the one. That was a very special moment right there.”
Now, she’s always at the shop and attracts visitors, even if they don’t have any shopping to do. Regularly, she wears a new bow tie, changed to suit Tosca’s mood. Sometimes, they reflect the holidays and special occasions.
“She’s a very sociable girl,” Rios said. “She loves greeting the customers and being around people and sometimes hang out behind the counter and looking at the action — what’s going on, who’s getting what.”
It seems that Tosca considers the shop her domain, and the humans are all part of her royal court. However, to Rios and Yousef, she’s the “little baby of the house.”
“Sometimes, she stands at the door, and she stretches her little paws, and everybody, you know, she stops the traffic in front of the door,” Rios said.
After Tosca’s image swept the internet, Yousef spotted it himself, telling SFGATE:
“We’re very happy that she gets to offer her love to so many people and that she really makes an impact and [gets to make] the day a little sweeter to somebody every day.”
Beloved Shop Cats in San Francisco
Hopefully, Tosca’s newfound stardom may also help draw more customers to the shop in one of the last independent shopping neighborhoods in the city. Wonderfully, the area has many beloved “shop cats,” also called bodega cats, which attract admirers from all over.
“Whatever you might call them — shop cats, corner store cats, bodega cats — these animals are a cornerstone of our neighborhoods and bring a bit of unexpected delight to an otherwise mundane daily routine,” wrote Amanda Bartlett for SFGATE.
Rather than just looking cute in a bow tie, the cats help out in a great many ways.
“They help to control the rodent population, spend most of their time looking cute, and they certainly encourage a local business’ cat-loving clientele to keep coming back. Most importantly, they provide a much-needed serotonin boost, which I think we could all use right about now,” Bartlett noted.
Due to the pandemic, retail shops in the area have suffered, and chain stores have been moving in.
Ramiz Yousef has run Nabila’s Natural on Hayes Street in San Francisco for over 26 years. According to ABC7, the neighborhood store seems “straight out of a movie” with a “quirky sign,” and outdoor murals.
Notably, the murals painted in 2013 feature jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone, requested by Ray Yousef. Wouldn’t we all like to pay a visit to see Tosca and this quaint and charming shop?