Matilda, Algonquin hotel

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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15 Comments on Meeting a feline celebrity

  1. I wrote about the Algonquin Hotel Cat last year — Matilda II of course. She was very nice and happy to answer my questions via email. I would definitely stay at that hotel if I went to New York. Too bad Matilda didn’t want to stay in your room with you, but she has a reputation to uphold, LOL.

  2. Lucky you! She’s a charmer. I’ve met the 8th and 9th Matildas but not this one. Every hotel should have a resident cat.

    • I agree, Layla. And it would be even more fun if they would “rent out” cats to spend the night in guest rooms for those of us who miss our cats when we travel!

      • I’ve enjoyed the company of a B & B owner’s cat on a few occasions. The Japanese rent out cats and dogs by the hour which I don’t agree with. Who knows where they go and what they do with them.

  3. Nothing like making another cat connection 🙂 I love this local floor store here in Cedar Rapids, IA. A man and his sister run it. They have three strays they took in who basically own the store. I love kitty love.

  4. This is a totally charming story……..what a great tradition the Algonquin has had since the 30’s in having a resident cat! Too bad Matilda III didn’t grace you with her pretty self as a sleeping companion the night you were there but at least you got to give her a pet or two! I remember years ago when my Mom was in a nursing home they had a resident cat and a resident dog… certainly was a tough of “home” for everyone there.

  5. That is such a great story. Love the fact that one more cat has a home and what a wonderful home it is. Think of all the people that Matilda gets to meet. We used to have a Matilda here. Glad you got to pat her at least.

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