New York City’s Algonquin Hotel has once again pulled off a spectacular birthday celebration for its resident cat, Matilda. This year’s festivities, which took place on Wednesday, August 5, included an on-site cat-adoption event, a raffle benefiting the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a special ceremony honoring four members of the New York City Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad and, of course, a feline-fashion show. Paying homage to the brave men and women who rescue animals in distress, the show’s theme was “First Responders.” Taking it all in was the International Association for Pet Fashion Professionals.
Long before the first photographers arrived to take shots of the cats in their police, FEMA and Red Cross outfits, a Wheels of Hope mobile adoption vehicle from the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals rolled up in front of the Algonquin’s stately main entrance. From there, volunteers for Linda’s Cat Assistance, which traps, neuters and returns stray and feral cats to the streets of the city, and operates a network of foster homes for homeless cats, showcased approximately 16 cats and kittens for adoption.
Inside the van, the cats and kittens rested inside large, roomy caged areas, relaxing and playing while visitors cooed at them. Among the cats were Summer Lily, a 13-year-old long hair with unique grey and butterscotch markings; an all-grey shorthair kitten named Samantha; Max, a kitten sporting black tiger stripes over a grey coat and Edward, a kitten whose entire coat was grey with exception of two pairs of adorable white “boots.” By the early evening, three cats had been adopted.
Back in the hotel, harried yet excited parents of the cats participating in the fashion show made last-minute alterations and adjustments to the outfits, designed by the incomparable queen of pet fashion, Ada Nieves.
Soon, it was time for the event to begin. Arranged on tables in a circle around a room just off the main lobby of the hotel, the cats offered a touching salute to the professions entrusted with protecting public safety. First up were Q and R2D2, two precious long hairs, wearing aquamarine and white doctor’s coats, respectively. The coats’ hand-painted designs featured pictures of stethoscopes and heart monitors, along with the image of a fish bone emerging from one of the coat’s pockets—no doubt the ideal protein-heavy snack for a busy cat doctor out on her rounds.
“All my cats are rescues, so I love coming to this show,” said Q and R2D2’s parent, Zahra Meherali, who also participated in last year’s event. She noted that it’s a great opportunity demonstrate that cats can accomplish far more than just lazing in the sun and chasing after catnip toys.
Bolstering this point were a police offer and a Girl Scout, aka Tigger and Purrcilla, at the adjacent table. Perched inside her very own hot-pink cage, Purrcilla, an adorable tabby kitten, shone in a Brownie-style khaki dress topped with a sash perfectly replicating those worn by human Girl Scouts. It even had badge-like buttons bearing such words as “Cute as can BEE,” “Blame the Dog” and “Rescued.” Tigger, meanwhile, who took in most of the event from a stroller, wore a navy-blue police coat with yellow buttons, along with a jaunty police cap. Watching over Tigger and Purrcilla was their proud mother, brown-eyed beauty Karen Frewert. Like many in the close-knit community of pet-fashion aficionados, she is heavily and indefatigably involved in animal-rescue efforts.
Next up were two Algonquin veterans, Milo the blond tabby and his mother, Aimee Henkell. Milo, who depicted Elle Woods from Legally Blond at last year’s event, demonstrated his versatility this year with a fetching dog-catcher costume. The brown uniform, on which Nieves painted a red circle with a crossed-out paw print bearing the words “NYC Dog Catcher,” also came with a hat with a matching paw print. Posing next to Milo was a stuffed plush pug, apparently one of his catches.
Nothing connotes more of a sense of civic responsibility and care toward others like a Red Cross uniform, which was what Thunder Folds, a compact and incredibly patient Scottish Fold, turned out in for the show. The red and white outfit bore the Red Cross’s iconic red cross on a white background, along with the term “Volunteer” on the back. It was topped off with broad white collar at the shoulder area.
If attendees didn’t recognize Thunder Folds from last year, there is a good reason for that. “He’s only seven months old,” says his mother, Kate Arian. “So he’s new to the scene. We don’t know anybody, but we’re here.” Considering Thunder Folds’ fetching good looks, that is likely to change.
Complimenting the Red Cross motif was a darling nurse uniform donned by Cami, a sweet-tempered Persian. Instead of today’s more stark-white nursing duds, Nieves chose a Mad Men-era look for the costume, trimming the collar and shoulders in a bold red and crafting a tiny nurse’s cap to help keep Cami’s head fur tucked nice and neat while she undertakes her duties. Cami’s mom, Desiree Lopez-Berman, noted she’d been waiting a long time to present her precious fur baby to the world like this. “ She’s my cat, and I just always felt she should be seen,” she said.
One cat nobody could miss seeing was Zeus, whose parent, Miguel Rodriguez, is a notable pet-fashion designer. No doubt by design, Zeus, a gorgeous and incredibly fluffy black and grey Persian, sat on a central table in the room, dressed as a New York City firefighter, he wore a navy-blue uniform with green-yellow fluorescent stripes, looking every bit the real deal. The uniform doubles as a raincoat. Zeus also wore a tiny red fire-chief hat. It’s probably no surprise that the many photographers in the room were constantly jostling for his photo throughout the evening.
Other cats in the room represented more types of first responders. Three-month old Max, who did a great job staying calm in a sea of adoring fans, wore an orange “Pet Medic” outfit on behalf of the “NYC Cat Emergency System,” while Toaster the Persian strutted in a fabulous FEMA outfit replica. Toaster never has to worry about getting wet in a hurricane or other disaster: His coat is made of water-repellent fabric. Meanwhile, coaxing wayward kittens from under parked subway cars was Aodhan (pronounced like the name “Aidan”), another Persian, dressed as a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) conductor. His stunningly true-to-life cotton-shirt uniform featured a baseball-style cap with a replica of the MTA’s “M” logo on it.
By the end of the night, the raffle had raised around $5,000 Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, and four members of the New York City Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad received plaques honoring their efforts. The cats, meanwhile, all seemed to have fallen asleep on their daises. It was a forgivable offense. As first responders, they’ve got a lot on their plates.