West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 11 | August 15 - 25, 2007


Rex was C.O. Bigelow Chemists’ shop cat for 10 years.

Pharmacy’s feline Rex was the king at C.O. Bigelow

By Clare Cecere

Victor Wellington has worked at C.O. Bigelow Chemists for 10 years — a pretty long time, but not as long as Rex. Rex, who passed away earlier this month, was Bigelow’s beloved store cat, watching and patrolling the pharmacy for 13 of his 16 years.

The shorthair mixed breed was adopted and took quickly to his role as the Sixth Ave. shop’s mascot.

“He was everywhere he wasn’t supposed to be! The whole store was his giant bedroom,” Wellington said last week. In addition to the counter and shelves, Rex’s favorite perches were on top of the cash register, a ledge on the wall and in the window.

Rex was frisky, friendly and fast, humorous, moody and lovable. Some customers loved him so much that they stopped to say hello to him even if they were in a rush, Wellington recalled.

Because Bigelow Chemists, America’s oldest apothecary, doesn’t contain food, there isn’t a mouse problem. As a result, Rex, despite being an indoor cat, took a liking to pigeons. He would wander outside and grab them in his mouth, then take them back to Wellington, who is afraid of pigeons. Though he enjoyed catching the birds, Rex would never eat them.

Owner Ian Ginsberg, whose grandfather bought the pharmacy in 1939, has seen three Bigelow cats in his time, each having a tenure of 10 to 15 years.

“A cat has always been a part of the business,” Ginsberg said. “It was like a comfort zone. Everyone expects one to be there.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, Rex developed a cancer on the roof of his mouth that prevented him from eating. He was given liquid kitten food in a syringe, which was all that he was able to get down. Surgery was available, but the veterinarians said it most likely wouldn’t work, and if it did, the cancer would just grow back. The consensus at Bigelow was that it would have been cruel to put Rex through the surgery only to have to eventually put him down.

On Aug. 3, Rex was put to sleep at Tribeca Animal Hospital on Lispenard St. His ashes will be kept in an urn that will be placed in his favorite sleeping place, an alcove that is hard for people to reach.

On Aug. 6, Bigelow adopted a new kitten, Allegra, from Petco in Union Square.

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