Over the past 80 years, New York City's Algonquin Hotel has played host to ten different feline residents, but now a new guideline from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has threatened to end the tradition, first started by then-owner Frank Case in 1932.
The kitty in question is Matilda III, a four-year-old Ragdoll cat who went from rags to riches when she was rescued by the North Shore Animal League and brought to live at the Algonquin late last year as the "Directfurr of Guest Relations." The hotel even celebrated her arrival with a Debutante Ball and cat fashion show that were held over the summer (You can read my full coverage of the event here). Instead of being given free range to wander throughout the hotel like the kitties that have come before her, Matilda was recently banned from the lobby, and relegated to being on a leash behind the front desk, or out-of-sight on a higher floor.
Algonquin General Manager Gary Budge suggests that the Health Department isn't the only culprit in the move, telling The New York Post, "People seem more aggressive toward her, and she's responded in a way that's not helpful." However, he also admitted, "The Health department in the past months suggested to us that pets in food-service facilities are no longer commingled."
Matilda could often be found napping in the hotel's lobby, which also doubles as a lounge called The Round Table Restaurant.
The move is a disappointing turn of events for fans who enjoy visiting with the iconic kitty, and count her as part of the Algonquin experience. I first encountered Matilda last February, shortly after she took up residence, and enjoyed sitting with the fluffy cat in the darkly lit lounge, while sipping on glass of her signature cocktail. While I'm happy to hear that she hasn't been evicted entirely, it's hard to say that it's not the end of an era for all of the cats whose presence is so ingrained in the hotel's history.