AUCKLAND, Nov 8 — New Zealand was mourning the loss of the nation’s “First Cat” this morning after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s pet puss Paddles was run over by a car in Auckland.
The prime minister’s office confirmed that the ginger and white rescue cat, also described by Ardern as the PM (Prime Moggy), died in an accident yesterday.
“To anyone who has ever lost a pet, you’ll know how sad we feel,” the 37-year-old leader wrote on Facebook, urging people to donate to an animal rescue charity.
“Paddles was much loved, and not just by us. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts.”
Paddles proved a popular member of the prime ministerial household after Ardern won office last month, with a Twitter account set up in her name, @FirstCatofNZ, attracting more than 11,000 followers.
Ardern insisted that the cat ran the account herself, saying she was “polydactyl”, with extra paws that looked like thumbs, allowing her to operate a keyboard.
She said the cat’s social media activities were “an enormous source of amusement”.
US magazine Vanity Fair said the tech-savvy feline was “helping establish Ardern as the latest hip, cool world leader that America wishes it had”.
Ardern’s partner, television host Clarke Gayford, this week described Paddles’ antics as Ardern was receiving a congratulatory phone call from US President Donald Trump after the election.
“She leapt up onto the chair next to Jacinda and began announcing her very squawky arrival,” he wrote on pop culture website thespinoff.co.nz.
“There was a flurry of action as I tried to hustle it into the next room while quite literally the leader of the free world was connected through to our little home in Pt Chev (Auckland suburb Point Chevalier).”
Twitter users reacted with grief to the news, with some calling for a state funeral and others saying they were so upset they would have to take the day off work.
Kent Parkstreet tweeted that Paddles was “a whimsical bit of peace and hope for the world, from a peaceful and hopeful nation”.
Gracie Brown, the Yorkshire terrier belonging to the US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, also offered sympathies via her own Twitter account @DiploDogGracie.
“My mom, Dad and I are very sorry to hear about @FirstCatofNZ. We will all say a prayer tonight,” she tweeted.
Ardern’s Facebook page was flooded with hundreds of condolence messages.
“Painful loss. Our pets worm their way into our hearts and when they leave us the hole is enormous. RIP Little Paddles,” Carolyn Sterling wrote.
Jane Hurley said Paddles’ life was “tragically cut short”.
“She was a member of your family who also became a member of our families... they leave big paw prints all over our heart,” she added. — AFP