We’ve all heard the saying “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.” Matilda the Cat has an entire hotel staff at her beck and call.
On a recent trip to New York, I stayed at the famed Algonquin Hotel, which I’d chosen not because of its long history as a haven for writers, but because of Matilda.
The Algonquin, located in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district, has had a resident cat since 1930, when a hungry stray wandered into the hotel in search of food and shelter. Owner Frank Case, famous for first welcoming Dorothy Parker and her friends to start the legendary Algonquin Round Table in the hotel’s bar, welcomed the feline traveler, and a tradition was born.
The current Matilda is the tenth resident cat, and the third cat to be named Matilda. She is a ragdoll who was chosen from North Shore Animal League after Matilda II, a 13-year-old ragdoll, announced her retirement. Matilda III began her residency at the Algonquin about a month ago. She likes to spend time in the hotel’s lobby, behind the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen feed her and the general manager’s executive assistant answers Matilda’s e-mail. When asked whether I could “rent” her for the night to keep me company, the bell captain told me “that would be up to Matilda.”
After spending the afternoon walking around Manhattan, I settled in for some people watching in the hotel’s lounge. Since I don’t drink, I passed on ordering a Matilda (belvedere ponaranza, cointreau, freshly squeezed lemon & orange juice, splash of perrier jouet 18) and stuck with cranberry juice instead. I asked the waiter where Matilda was, and he pointed to a corner of the lobby. And there, underneath a planter, on a velvety cat bed, was the “Algonqueen” herself, snoozing away. Since I didn’t want to interrupt the two guests sitting at the table in front of the planter any more than I already had, I didn’t get a chance to pet her.
Matilda was not out and about when I returned from dinner with friends later that night, and I assumed that meant that she had turned down my request to spend the night in my room.
Early the following morning I went to the lobby in search of coffee, and there was Matilda, stretched out in the very center of the lobby. I bent down to pet her, and was rewarded with a smile, a yawn, and a stretch.
My visit to New York was now complete.
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