We ask Alice de Almeida, the Algonquin Hotel’s chief cat officer—yes, that’s really her title—everything you wanted to know about the hotel’s glamorous cat-in-residence, Hamlet.
How did the tradition of the Algonquin Hotel cat begin?
In the late ’20s, a stray cat wandered into the hotel. It was a marmalade-colored cat, so they named him Rusty and decided to keep him. John Barrymore, one of our most famous guests, was doing Hamlet on Broadway at the time, and the legend is that he decided to change the cat’s name to Hamlet because it was more dignified. After that, it just kept up as a tradition. We now have Hamlet VIII.
And where is the current Hamlet from?
Hamlet was found on the streets of Long Island in a feral colony, and he was brought to [the animal shelter] Bideawee, which, thankfully, called us. He’s a true stray cat.
Ending up at the Algonquin—what an upgrade! What’s a typical day like for him?
He has his breakfast, and then he’ll wander around. He’ll sit at the desk. He’ll look at the guests. He’ll greet the guests. He’ll have a nap. He’ll get up. He’ll have some water, have a couple of treats. He’ll look at a few more guests. He really does enjoy meeting the guests.
Does he have a favorite place in the hotel?
Well, he’s only allowed in the front-desk area because, according to the Board of Health, you cannot have—I hate to use the word—an “animal” where you serve food. So, he’s restricted to the front-office area. But he’s got a nice tree house there, and he has a tree house in the front window.
What does his social calendar look like?
His big event is his fund-raiser every August, when we host a cat fashion show. And that’s basically the biggest. I mean, you never know what will pop up or who’ll come in or whatever. We get visitors from all over. He even does social media stuff with dogs. He’s not prejudiced.
That’s really brave. And do guests come to the hotel and ask to see him?
All the time. There are people who come to the city and stop by the hotel just to see him. And then there are people that specifically make reservations because of him. And they all bring him gifts. He gets gifts from all over the world.
What kind of gifts does he get?
Well, let’s see, we have one, two, three... We have four oil paintings of the cat. One of his portraits is hanging at the front desk. He gets bow ties and regular ties. Bowls with his name on it. Mats with his name on it. He actually got a Minnesota Twins baseball cap.
That’s amazing, I love it. So, a wide variety.
Yeah, yeah, and of course marriage proposals.
Wow! Okay, so maybe some gifts he didn’t ask for?
From cats, not people.