Hamlet, an orange tabby who came from a feral colony on Long Island, took over the role of feline ambassador at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan in September — a month before his predecessor, Matilda the Ragdoll cat, died.
How Hamlet Came to the Algonquin
Hamlet is living a life of luxury at the Algonquin, which is a huge upgrade from his background. The sweet, friendly cat must have been someone’s pet rather than a true feral, but a Good Samaritan found him sitting on a windowsill and brought him to New York’s Bideawee pet rescue last June. Bideawee contacted the Algonquin, which was seeking a new kitty to fill Matilda’s paws. Hotel officials fell in love with the ginger cat immediately, adopted him and named him Hamlet as part of a decades-old tradition of Algonquin cats with the same names. Hamlet came to the hotel in July, and he spent a couple of months getting to know the staff and his surroundings before taking over after Matilda’s August retirement.
“The rest is history,” says Alice De Almeida, who is the hotel’s executive assistant but later added the title of “Chief Cat Officer.” “He may have lived with somebody, and either they threw him out or he ran away, but he’s the tamest thing.
“He’s a love,” says the longtime cat lover, who has four household rescue cats and takes care of five ferals. “He’s very friendly and laid-back. I saw three kids petting him at the same time … I’ve never seen a cat like him. He loves it.”
How Did Hamlet Prep for His Role at the Algonquin?
Hamlet prepared for his role by working with a cat trainer — yes, there is such a thing — and learning boundaries. Hamlet, now about 2 years old, roams the Algonquin lobby every day, and Alice is the one who feeds him on a typical morning. Guests are not allowed to pick up Hamlet, but they can pet him in the lobby. They might find the kitty lounging in his three-tiered cat tree by the front desk or relaxing by a window.
Guests bring Hamlet — a highly intelligent kitty, De Almeida says — gifts, take his business cards and email him at hamletalgonquin firstname.lastname@example.org. One admirer jokingly wrote in his email that Hamlet was not receptive to his idle chitchat but put a smile on the guest’s face.
The Algonquin’s Tradition of Resident Cats
The Algonquin’s rich tradition of resident cats dates back to the 1920s, when a stray cat named Billy showed up in the lobby and ended up living there. Matilda, who passed away in October from a stroke while living in her post-retirement adopter’s home in Minnesota, was the third female cat named Matilda. This new Hamlet is the hotel’s seventh male named Hamlet — a name inspired by actor John Barrymore whose signature role was playing Hamlet in the Shakespearean play; Barrymore lived for a period at the Algonquin, Alice says.
She calls the hotel’s cats delightful additions to the culture there, and they make visitors — some of whom choose the Algonquin mainly because of the cats — smile and feel at home. The dearly departed Matilda, Alice says, was the “Algonqueen.” Hamlet, then, must be the “Algonking.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as Mother Catresa to homeless kittens and cats. She blogs about her adventures in fostering at mothercatresaschronicle.blogspot.com.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!
Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Algonquin Hotel.
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