Image courtesy Shop Cats of New York
Rats and pigeons may reign supreme in New York City, but cats — both resident and stray ones — have found their home amidst our urban sprawl. Some stalk the streets, others take refuge in corner bodegas and still more pounce around the lobby of hotels.
As lifelong New Yorkers, the Untapped Cities team has grown familiar with quite a few of these furry faces over the years. In fact, you can read amusing tales about them in Shop Cats of New York by Tamar Arslanian and Andrew Marttila (HarperCollins). Based on these stories and our very own encounters, we’ve complied a few of the most famous feline friends that call the city home.
10. Hamlet at the Algonquin Hotel
The Algonquin Hotel has been home to a residential cat since the 1920’s, when a stray named Billy wandered into the hotel and never left. Since then, seven male cats, all named Hamlet, and three females, all named Matilda, have been the face of the hotel.
Following Matilda III’s retirement (more on her later), Hamlet, an orange tabby stray found in Long Island, became the new residential cat in August 2017. The first male mascot for the hotel in more than 40 years, Hamlet was adopted from Bideawee animal rescue in Wantagh. If you happen to visit the Algonquin anytime soon, make sure to give him a pet, and read up on some fascinating secrets about the hotel. You can also see what Hamlet is up to by visiting his personal Facebook account.
9. Baxter the Graffiti Cat (Formerly at 5Pointz)
After the much contested whitewashing of 5Pointz, Long Island City’s former graffiti mecca, Baxter the Graffiti Cat was left with a drastically different home than he was used to. The black feline, who was a regular at the warehouse space since 2007 or 2008, was known to roam around the space and follow artists. According to DNAinfo, he was reportedly brought to site by workers there, likely to fend off rats. He even had his own bed within the complex.
Although 5Pointz is no longer standing, Baxter is not without a home. We were ecstatic to find out that Untapped Cities writer and photographer, Rachel Fawn Alban, adopted him. And he now has his very own Instagram, @graffiticatbaxter, where you can follow his adventures and see cute latergrams, which Alban has dubbed #Baxtergrams. He currently lives in Newark, New Jersey, but deserves special mention due to his New York City roots.
8. Creeper and Scuzzball (Formerly at Bleecker Street Records)
West Village icons, Creeper (or Keetah) and Scuzzball, were the brother-sister feline mascots at Bleecker Street Records, a neighborhood record store near Washington Square Park that sells vinyls, cassettes, CDs, DVDs and other paraphernalia.
Scuzzball passed away in 2014, and Creeper in October 2016, according to a Facebook post. “She’s up in rock & roll kitty heaven with her brother, Scuzzball, and probably sitting on David Bowie’s lap on a sparkling cloud floating somewhere above Manhattan,” the post states. “Thank you to everyone who’s been through and loved all up on her over the years. We’re all heartbroken here at BSR, but it’s fun to see almost 400 posts about her with #CreeperTheCat. She was a loved kitty.”
7. Allegra at C.O. Bigelow
Image from Shop Cats of New York
In 1995, Mr. Bigelow, the beloved resident cat at C.O. Bigelow pharmacy, passed away. He was so loved that The New York Times actually dedicated an obituary to him, where he was referred to as a “special cat, good-natured but proud, loving but lordly.”
Following Mr. Bigelow’s death, Rex became the resident feline, until he developed cancer on the roof of his mouth and was put to sleep in 2007. (His ashes are reportedly kept in an urn that’s placed in an alcove that once served as his favorite sleeping place.) Allegra was adopted shortly afterwards from the Petco in Union Square. She was named after allergy medicine since C.O. Bigelow pharmacist and owner Ian Ginsberg is actually allergic to cats.
6. Tiny at Community Bookstore
As the co-owner of an independent bookstore, he’s unsurprisingly a “voracious reader.” His two favorite books to read (aka sit on) are Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War. Tiny reportedly has “zero tolerance,” as may be evident from his Twitter bio, which states: “fiercest predator in Park Slope, sexiest tom in the Tri-state area, and all around badass.”
5. The Copy Cat at Park Slope Copy Center
Stinky and Boom-Boom (aka Mr. Charlie and The Sister), collectively referred to as “The Copy Cats,” were the brother-sister duo, who resided at the Park Slope Copy Center. Mr. Charlie is still there but Boom-Boom died before the publication of The Shop Cats of New York. In the book, author Tamar Arslanian learns from the Copy Cat owners that Mr. Charlie meowed horribly when his sister died.
You can find Mr. Charlie lounging around on the warm photocopying machines, napping in a day bed, or on top of the box, where we last saw him. According to The Airship, no one is certain when or where the shop cats came from, but they’ve since made the neighborhood printing firm their unlikely home. Quite humorously, one customer even reported finding a copy of Mr. Charlie’s belly on a printer tray. “The copy was just lying in the hopper when I went to use the machine,” said customer stated. “…I displayed it on my kitchen wall for years as a beautiful piece of found art.”
4. Molly at Myers of Keswick
Myers of Keswick, a traditional British grocery store where bangers and meat pies are sold, might not be the first place you’d expect to find a cat, but it’s where Molly currently resides. She was adopted in January 2006, and quickly became an independent shop cat. Her claim to fame, however, is an interesting story of endurance and bewilderment.
One day in March, owner Peter Myers realized that Molly was no where to be found. He whistled to her, and heard a faint meow, but could not track her down. He later figured out that the sound was coming from a space between the grocery store at 634 Hudson Street and the building next door, where she had accidentally gotten lodged nearby the ceiling of the store. It took 12 days and the kindness of a few good civilians to rescue her. Following the incident, Molly appeared on a variety of television shows and newspapers, including Regis and Kelly, Good Day New York and more. See Molly here.
3. Ivy at Neergaard Pharmacy
Image from Shop Cats of New York
In Park Slope’s Neergaard Pharmacy, you can find Ivy roaming around the aisles. The name — inspired, not by the plant, but by an I.V. drip — is fitting not only because of where Ivy lives, but because of how she was able to get under the skin of and into the hearts of customers and employees.
As a nod to her “queenly” status at the pharmacy, regulars refer to her as “Her Royal Highness Princess Ivy of Neergaard.” (She’s said to only eat cans of Fancy Feast.)
2. Samson aka King Catstradamus
To be clear, New York City’s biggest cat isn’t fat or overweight; he’s just a pure bred Maine Coon, which means he’s naturally stocky, weighing in at a hefty 28lbs and stretching four feet in length. Samson, also known as King Catstradamus, currently lives in Williamsburg with his owner Jonathan Zurbel. There, he chows down on six cans of wet food a day, in addition to dry eats.
You can follow his adventures via Instagram (@catstradamus), where you can find amusing photos of him lounging around and being held by regular-sized humans.
1. Martin the NYPD Kitten
— NYPD 60th Precinct (@NYPD60Pct) April 11, 2018
In December 2016, a women left a six-month-old tabby (now dubbed Martin) at the precinct on West 8th Street and Surf Avenue. Swayed by the kitten’s irresistible charm, Brooklyn NYPD cops decided to adopt him as the police station house mascot and pet. He’s named after Officer Martin D. Costanza, who avidly petitioned to keep him.
Bonus: Chiclet on Mary Whalen in Red Hook
Image courtesy PortSide NewYork
Chiclet, a rescue cat from the Rockaways, may be one of the few cats in New York City who has sea legs. As a ship cat, she keeps an eye on the Mary Whalen, the repurposed oil tanker that serves as the floating office and venue for PortSide NewYork in Red Hook. There, she’s become the official greeter, keeps the ship rodent free and serves as an inspector on all pier and outdoor ship work. She even designed the PortSide NewYork Twitter page, and is actively involved in resiliency work, writing essays about the topic, which you can check out here.
Despite what her physical appearance might suggest, Chiclet is not a kitten. A “visiting four-year-old” named her after “a small gum” due to her overall small size. In 2012, Chiclet was also listed in Time Out’s list of top New York City mascots.
Bonus: Matilda III (Formerly at the Algonquin Hotel)
This list wouldn’t be complete without giving a shout out to Matilda III, the beloved, long-haired cat who formerly strolled the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel. We even had a chance to “interview” her in person (she actually “answered” her own emails!). She passed away on October 21, 2017. We learned of the news through a Facebook note posted by her keeper, Rosemary May Kenigsberg, who adopted Matilda after her retirement.
“Matilda III fell into a sleep today at the emergency vet clinic and did not wake up,” states the Facebook post, which was posted at 3:56pm. “Last evening she may have had a stroke, woke up with her hind legs very weak, then lost all control of her bladder. She did not want to be touched, her sister Miss Holley sat with her before we left and at the clinic she slipped away.” According to Kenigsberg, Matilda had kidney disease, and was about 11 or 12-years-old when she passed in her home in Duluth, Minn.
After seven years at the hotel, Matilda III, who arrived from the North Shore Animal League, retired from her post in July 2017. And while the hotel has had feline occupants since the early 1900’s, Matilda was certainly the most famous: she had dedicated social media accounts, had screen time on international television, and even received emails from human fans, who would visit her in person bearing gifts.