By Freddie Moore

Tiny, co-owner of Community Bookstore (Credit: Photo by author)

The first day I go to visit Tiny, he is not to be found. “He’s probably out picking on other cats,” Community Bookstore co-owner Stephanie Valdez tells me. “It’s one of his favorite things to do.”

Tiny the Usurper is the cat co-owner of Community Bookstore in Park Slope. He is the only cat to name himself co-owner of any of the independent book stores in Brooklyn. He additionally has his own Twitter and many intimidating personas, including The Bad Cat (or El Gato Malo, as the neighborhood kids scream). He is also El Gato Peligroso (The Dangerous Cat) to the store’s booksellers — or, as he calls them, his minions.  

Tiny sports a spiked collar and can often be found sitting on his favorite books. I’m told he’s a voracious reader, absorbing the text of the books he sits on. His two favorites: Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

“Tiny is zero tolerance,” Community Bookstore employee A.C. tells me. Translation: If you’re a terrible customer, Tiny will bite you.

Tiny has actually been very lucky: Community Bookstore took him in after one of the employees overheard someone discussing taking four kittens to a notoriously bad shelter. “For a while the kittens all lived in the store, and various staff members were taking them home,” Stephanie Valdez recalls. “So there was a period of time when the store was overrun by kittens. You can imagine, productivity was at an all-time low.”

Shortly after, Tiny was taken home by the store’s previous owner, Katherine, who tended to him until he was old enough to be the shop cat. During his early days at the store, Tiny was taught the tricks of the trade by former store cat Margery, who Stephanie stresses “was also a terrible cat.” It was through his relationship with Margery that Tiny won the name Tiny the Usurper, as he progressively seized Margery’s position as store cat.

The second day I visit Tiny, he remains hard to find. The Community Bookstore staff members and I surmise that he is hiding from the children who keep wandering in and out of the 7th Avenue Street Fair. When we find him, he is sunbathing by the window, stretched out between books like a drunken sailor. “When it gets really hot out,” A.C. tells me, “he does this cat thing, where he just spread-eagles on his back. He’s able to possess a certain amount of dignity some of the time, but then it just goes out the window.”

Tiny's personal sauna

Tiny isn’t afraid to show everyone that he owns the place.  He is belligerent when it comes to displays of power. One of his most infamous moments took place during a children’s storytime that involved a live chicken. A.C. explains:

“I don’t know what this guy was thinking. The author had gotten this farmer that [he] knew, and the farmer thought it would be a good idea to bring a live chicken in for storytime, but no one told him we had a cat. And so the minute that Tiny caught sight of it, it was just gone. [Tiny] rushed for the chicken, but the chicken got away. He was chasing the chicken around the store, and Stephanie is trying to stabilize the situation and hoping to god there’s no bloodshed in front of the children.”

Fortunately, there was no bloodshed.

An older woman browsing books overhears the chicken story and laughs with endearment. This is what Tiny the Usurper does to us: He is The Bad Cat, but he is also terribly cute. It’s hard not to love him.  

“Sometimes, often, he’s very cute, he doesn’t fight with people,” A.C. tells me.

But, to uphold Tiny's reputation, here’s his hit list: