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New York’s Felinist

A salute to NYC’s cat-loving first responders

Author Hillary Richard Photography Landon Nordeman

cats

NEW YORK CITY – In the early decades of the 20th century, Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel was renowned for its Round Table lunches, at which Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, and other leading lights would gather to swap witticisms. These days, it’s the Algonquin’s resident cat, Matilda, who garners the most attention: Her annual birthday bash is one of the city’s most coveted invites.

In the Oak Room tonight, the perfectly groomed 8-year-old feline is surrounded by men and women in uniform, members of the city’s new Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad.

One of these is John Passarella, a strapping NYPD officer who made headlines last summer when he was photographed rubbing noses with a small tabby he’d extracted from a car engine, a feat that has earned him an award at tonight’s event.

Joining Passarella on the honoree list are three other police officers, including Andrea DiNella, who took care of a cat she named Frankie after he walked into her precinct house and refused to leave. “He turned himself in,” she says.

After the awards comes a fashion show (“A Feline Salute to NYC’s First Responders”), in which a variety of cats model scaled-down uniforms. One of them, Zeus, swats at the strap of his FDNY helmet before curling up in a tiny red fire truck, eliciting a gale of appreciative aahs.

Later, when all of the animals have gone, an old Round Table yarn gets another airing. As the story goes, Woollcott, an eminent drama critic, was facing the prospect of euthanizing his beloved and very old cat but wasn’t sure how to go about it. When he told Parker about it, she is said to have replied, “Have you tried
curiosity?”

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