From Bodega Blues to Bliss: The Rescue of Leila

From Bodega Blues to Bliss: The Rescue of Leila

A heartwarming rescue story unfolded in Hell’s Kitchen when a group of concerned neighbors banded together to save a bodega cat that had been abandoned for over five weeks in a closed deli.

The tale of the feline’s rescue is a true “rags to riches” story, transitioning from a cold, lonely basement to a warm, loving home.

“It’s rags to riches. She went from a cold basement to a comfortable apartment curled up on [a] bed,” shared Tiff Winton, one of the dedicated neighbors who played a crucial role in the rescue.

The Plight of Leila

The cat, now known as Leila, was left alone inside the shuttered Citra Gourmet Deli in Hell’s Kitchen for weeks. Neighbors first noticed the distressed kitty meowing near a window at the deli on Tenth Avenue near West 45th Street, as reported by the blog W42ST.

Ben Lagman, a local resident, initially tried to feed Leila through a broken door but quickly realized more drastic action was needed.

“We thought this cat might die, we didn’t know if there was AC in there, and there was broken glass on the floor,” Lagman said. “It was deplorable.”

Desperate Conditions

The conditions inside the deli were dire. “The poor thing was in horrible shape. She was dirty and hungry,” Lagman described. Winton added, “She was meowing incessantly.

She was starving. There were empty cat food cans all over the store, a bed in a cold weird basement, and she was totally dehydrated. She survived because they were feeding her, but they were coming by randomly.”

The cat was found in a state of severe neglect, with broken glass littering the floor and no consistent access to food or water.

According to the source, despite these conditions, the deli owner occasionally stopped by to feed her, but it wasn’t enough to ensure her well-being.

Community to the Rescue

Determined to save Leila, the neighbors coordinated their efforts through a Facebook group. Their mission was clear: get in touch with the shop owner and secure the cat’s release. Their persistence paid off when a man with keys to the deli agreed to turn Leila over to Winton on a Monday.

“She’s such a good kitty, she didn’t fight. She seemed to know she was being rescued,” Winton said, reflecting on the cat’s surprisingly calm demeanor during the rescue.

A New Beginning

Ben Lagman, who was instrumental in the rescue, decided to adopt Leila. Despite initial skittishness following a vet visit, Leila soon adjusted to her new home.

“Now the cat is lying on Ben’s bed watching television,” Winton remarked. “Within an hour of being there, she was relaxed and purring.”

Lagman, who started a GoFundMe page to support the rescue efforts, shared that the veterinarian estimated Leila to be in her teens.

He’s considering renaming her “Deli” to honor her origins. “Her personality went from very afraid to extraordinarily affectionate,” he noted. “I’m blessed to have her.”

Community Spirit

This story highlights the strong sense of community and compassion in Hell’s Kitchen. Neighbors who had never met before united to save a helpless animal in distress.

Their successful rescue operation transformed Leila’s life from one of neglect and uncertainty to one filled with love and comfort.


Leila’s journey from a cold, deserted deli to a warm, loving home is a testament to the power of community action and the difference it can make in an animal’s life.

Thanks to the efforts of Tiff Winton, Ben Lagman, and other caring neighbors, Leila now enjoys a life of luxury and affection.

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