The day I visited the Algonquin Hotel, I was turned away by Alice de Almeida, executive assistant and Chief Cat Officer at the hotel, who insisted she needed an OK from the hotel’s public relations department before speaking with me for this post. Matilda, the Algonquin Hotel’s cat, is very famous, but I had hoped that, as a cat, she wouldn't be the kind of famous you get turned away from. That turned out not to be the case.
The staff was sympathetic about sending me away, and a few of the girls behind the counter snagged photos of Matilda (for the time being, I wasn't allowed to). Thankfully the Algonquin’s public relations team granted me an interview with Alice the next day, who was happy to answer my questions about the hotel’s infamous cat.
Matilda is the 10th cat in a long line of feline Algonquin residents. The first was brought to the hotel in the 1930s and originally named Rusty, after his ginger coat. Story has it that he was later renamed Hamlet by John Barrymore, an Algonquin guest who was starring in the Shakespearean role at that time. There were seven more male Hamlets, until the recent line of female Matildas came to power. Matilda, the current Algonqueen, is technically Matilda the third.
Matilda began her reign at the North Shore Animal League, from which she was whisked away to her throne at the Algonquin. There, she transitioned to life as the Algonqueen, first in the back office of the hotel, then making bigger strides to the front office, claiming the front manager’s chair as her throne almost immediately. Within days of becoming an official Algonquin cat, Matilda stole a shoe from the night manager at the front desk to claim as her divan. To this day, napping remains one of Matilda’s biggest hobbies, and she can often be found presiding over one of the many chairs around the hotel.
A day in the life of this royal feline is surprisingly humble, the routine falling along the lines of: eat, nap, eat, nap, observe subjects (hotel guests), nap. Still, Matilda is a very regal, purebred ragdoll cat – the Algonqueen, and she knows it. Of Matilda, Alice says, “[she] lets you know what she wants and how she wants it.” Alice says that Matilda can be demanding at times, but it’s charming – part of her good humor as a cat. Alice also stresses that Matilda is highly intelligent, almost dog-like — but unlike a dog, Matilda has worked to train Alice in understanding how to tend to her needs. “Cats train you,” Alice explains.
It must be easy for Matilda to get her subjects to tend to her every need, especially considering the sheer number of her followers, which include those on Facebook and Twitter. But the fanfare also comes with typical pitfalls: Alice tells me Matilda receives more marriage proposals from cat-owners trying to wed their pets to her than she can count. She has accepted none.