In the 1920s, a stray cat wandered into the Algonquin Hotel in Midtown New York. No one had the heart to tell the kitty to scram, so they named him Billy and he became a hotel fixture.
In the '30s, Billy was followed by Hamlet. That cat was originally named Rusty, but frequent guest actor John Barrymore suggested the feline needed a more dignified name, reports the New York Post. So the new hotel mascot was re-dubbed after the actor's most famous role.
Over the years, as each kitty retired, a new one took its place. Each male was named Hamlet and each female was named Matilda.
The most famous feline mascot
Matilda III was the hotel's most popular and outgoing cat. (Photo: Hamlet - The Algonquin Cat/Facebook)
Matilda III, the beloved, friendly ragdoll who greeted visitors in the lobby for about a decade, recently passed away after retiring to a home in Duluth, Minnesota. Matilda III was the most famous of all the Algonquin's feline ambassadors.
Matilda III made television appearances and starred in the book, "Matilda: The Algonquin Cat," which chronicled her exciting life.
Like her predecessors, she could be found supervising employees at the front desk, winding her way through visitors' knees, sleeping in her front window perch, and hiding when she just wasn't up for being social.
The latest cat-bassador
When Matilda retired, the Algonquin managers decided they wanted a cat that looked like the original orange tabby Hamlet from nearly 90 years ago. They told a few shelters to be on the lookout.
Bideawee animal rescue called about an adorable tabby and the Algonquin found its next Hamlet.
"We absolutely fell in love," chief cat officer Alice de Almeida told the New York Post. "There’s not a shy bone in his body."
Among de Almeida's responsibilities are feeding, grooming and caring for the cat, including social media and his appearances. She admits that the public might have to adjust from Matilda III's glamour to Hamlet VIII's earthiness.
"Because so many people think Matilda is so beautiful, I’m sure there’s going to be some comments, like 'What’s this street kid doing up here?' " said de Almeida, who added that it's hard to resist the kitty's sweetness. "Look at him. How can you not love him?"