Bodega smitten over kitten's return


It was almost a “purr-fect” crime.

An alleged catnapper in a Cookie Monster hoodie scooped up a 2-month-old kitten named Luna in the middle of the day Feb. 23, just weeks into her new life as Ismael’s Gourmet Deli’s inaugural cat.

The bodega had only been open for several months when Luna joined its ranks in late January, and owners Ismael Diaz and Suzie Peña felt she brought new light and life to the West 238th Street establishment. Luna was especially important for Diaz and Peña’s 10-year-old son Jonathan, who has autism. Luna and Jonathan developed a strong bond quickly, and would keep each other company behind the counter.

“We’re going to do anything and everything in our power to try to get this cat back,” Diaz remembers telling Jonathan, who was brokenhearted over Luna’s disappearance.

Little did the accused catnapper know, the bodega’s cameras recorded his every movement. Diaz called the police, and the 50th Precinct put out a wanted poster where the “purr-petrator” was clearly visible. The poster and widespread media coverage galvanized the community to help get the word out about Luna.

On Feb. 28, Luna came home.

Perhaps racked by guilt, the alleged catnapper returned her himself, and was later charged with petty larceny.

Diaz, Peña and Jonathan are keeping a closer eye on her now.

“That’s my thing now,” Peña said. “Where’s Luna?”

Luna is back in her rightful place, chasing toy mice and resting on Jonathan’s lap.

“The cat keeps us alive,” Diaz said.

— Julius Constantine Motal