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Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday night soother: Hamlet the cat

by digby

The NY Post:

About a month ago, a 1-year-old orange tabby was found scrounging for food in a feral colony near Hempstead, LI. Now, he’s chasing toy mice, cuddling with an array of adoring humans and exploring his posh surroundings at one of Manhattan’s most elegant establishments: Midtown’s historic Algonquin Hotel. That’s because this feline, as has been exclusively revealed to The Post, is Hamlet, the newest Algonquin Cat.

“He’s a real rags-to-riches story,” hotel marketing manager Nicholas Sciammarella said.

Hamlet is the 12th Algonquin cat and its first male mascot in more than 40 years. He is replacing current beloved kitty Matilda III, a regal long-haired ragdoll, who is retiring after seven years of service. For the past few weeks, Hamlet’s been hiding upstairs, away from the public, but he’ll make his debut on Thursday evening at the hotel’s annual Cat Fashion Show, which raises money for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.

“We’re really excited,” said Alice de Almeida, chief cat officer, whose duties include managing feline social media, handling vet appointments and making sure Matilda (and now Hamlet) is well-fed, groomed and spoiled.

“I think the guests are going to eat him up,” she said, adding that one of the hotel’s associates who is close to Matilda will be adopting her.

The Algonquin, which opened in 1902, has had a cat in residence since the 1920s, when Billy the stray wandered in and never left. But the hotel’s first Hamlet arrived in 1933. Initially named Rusty, he was re-christened when frequent guest and actor John Barrymore said the kitten needed a more dignified moniker.

The Algonquin had seven Hamlets — in honor of Barrymore’s greatest role — before going on to adopt three Matildas. The current Matilda arrived in 2010 from the North Shore Animal League, and she’s been the hotel’s busiest ambassador yet, with international TV appearances and even her own book, published in October 2016.

But de Almeida noted that the 11-year-old grand dame was getting tired. “Everybody ages differently, but she is not as friendly [with visitors],” she said. Matilda III’s daily afternoon visits with children and fans have gotten shorter. “She’ll let them take a couple photos and then she’ll turn her head so you can’t get the photo, like ‘I’m here, but I’m done.’ ”

“We want to make sure that she has a couple of good golden years, where she can just have a private life instead of being in the public spotlight,” said Sciammarella.Hamlet the cat in an office at the Algonquin Hotel.Annie Wermiel

The Algonquin put out feelers to a few shelters saying they were looking for an orange short-haired cat, like the hotel’s original Hamlet. And that’s when Bideawee animal rescue in Wantagh called to say an adorable tabby had showed up at its door, with a clipped ear to signal he had already been neutered.

“We absolutely fell in love,” said de Almeida of their first meeting with Hamlet. “There’s not a shy bone in his body.”

De Almeida and Sciammarella are worried that it will be an adjustment for the public, who had gotten used to Matilda’s glamorous hauteur.

“Because so many people think Matilda is so beautiful, I’m sure there’s going to be some comments, like ‘What’s this street kid doing up here?’ ” said de Almeida. But even the most fiercely loyal staff members — such as the chef who cooks crab cakes especially for Matilda — can’t help but be enchanted by Hamlet’s sweetness. “Look at him. How can you not love him?” she said.