How a Virginia bookstore found loving homes for cats

The independent bookstore Tales of the Lonesome Pine works with a local animal shelter to bring cats into the store and search for a permanent home for them using social media.

Darko Vojinovic/AP
An owner prepares a cat for an international cats competition in Belgrade, Serbia.

You may be used to seeing a cat sleeping in a sunny window when you go into your local independent bookstore, but at the Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore in Big Stone Gap, Va., the bookstore cat is officially an “intern.”

According to Robert Gray, a writer for the industry newsletter Shelf Awareness, Lonesome Pine co-owner Wendy Welch offers a bookstore internship program for cats at her location. She works with the local shelter to bring in cats who hang out at the store, wandering the aisles. She searches for permanent homes for them. On the store’s Facebook page, the newest cats to be featured are Hadley and Rhett (cats are given book-themed names). 

“Energetic and fun, Hadley is a true kitten's kitten. Stop by and meet her today!” bookstore staff wrote of Hadley. Meanwhile, Rhett is “working on his novel, but it's slow going because of his rigorous napping and snacking schedule,” according to the store’s Facebook post. (Rhett is pictured perched on a keyboard.) “Kind and thoughtful, Rhett is a true gentleman.” (Check out the store’s Facebook page here.)

Welch is also the author of the book “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap,” which was first published in 2013 and told the story of Welch and her husband deciding to open a bookstore in Big Stone Gap. “Most folks gave them a year,” Monitor books editor Marjorie Kehe wrote of the couple’s venture in a review of Welch’s book “Gap.” “Welch’s memoir manages to be both cozy and witty at the same time and paints a picture of small-town life that we all want to believe is possible. And her belief that books are an essential part of any life worth living is pretty much irresistible as well.” 

Meanwhile, cats who hang out at bookstores have other fans as well. Bustle writer Emma Cueto wrote in a recent article, “If you’ve ever been browsing through a used bookshop and looked up to find a cat staring at you from the top of the bookshelf, you will understand exactly what I mean when I say that bookstore cats are the absolute best. I mean, they’re cats that hang out in bookstores. How do you beat that? You don’t.”

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