Tributes have poured in on social media for Paddles, the first ever ‘First Cat’ of New Zealand, who was killed by a car near Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Auckland home.
Fans have called for a state funeral for “the spiritual leader of the nation”, whose media supporters included Vanity Fair and The Guardian.
On Wednesday, Ms Ardern took to Facebook to mourn Paddles, the one-time rescue cat who became an international celebrity.
“To anyone who has ever lost a pet, you’ll know how sad we feel,” the PM wrote.
“Paddles was much loved, and not just by us. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts.”
To anyone who has ever lost a pet, you'll know how sad we feel. Paddles was much loved, and not just by us. Thanks for…
The person manning Paddles’ Twitter account said the cat’s ‘father’, Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, asked for gifts of condolences to be made as donations to the SPCA.
A message from “Sad PR guy” on the account thanked fans “for loving Paddles” and noted “the whole world will mourn her. Not bad for a lil SPCA puss”.
The dog of the US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, was among the first to send online love, in a Twitter message featuring an emoji of joined praying hands.
Gracie Brown wrote: “My mom, Dad and I are very sorry to hear about @FirstCatofNZ. We will all say a prayer.”
@GovGeneralNZ surely a state funeral for the spiritual leader of the nation and first cat, Paddles ❤️🐱
— Archie Buissink (@ArchieBuissink) November 7, 2017
Sorry I can't come into work today, too upset about Paddles. #RIPPaddles 😭
— Kelly Teed (@kellyteed) November 7, 2017
Earlier, a spokesperson for the PM confirmed that “Yes, sadly Paddles has died after being run over by a car.”
When Ms Ardern took the top job last month, her ginger cat quickly drew the spotlight via her @FirstCatofNZ Twitter account.
Ms Ardern joked Paddles had opposable thumbs and helped control its own social media presence because it was “purrty special.”
The cat’s Twitter bio said, “Have thumbs, will tweet” and the lure of the First Cat was so strong she quickly amassed over 11,000 followers.
The Huffington Post dubbed her “the most powerful cat in New Zealand” and Mr Gayford, a TV presenter, said he was surprised when a friend sent him a newspaper story about Paddles from a Danish newspaper.
Mr Gayford also noted Paddles nearly skittled a phone call Ms Ardern had from US President Donald Trump.
“As the call was transferred our cat, came flying through the cat-flap,” he said.
“She leaped up onto the chair next to Jacinda and began announcing her very squawky arrival. There was a flurry of action as I tried to hustle it into the next room.”
But the cat’s burgeoning fame was cut short by the road accident in the suburb of Pt Chevalier where, according to the New Zealand Herald, she “shared a pad” with Ms Ardern and TV presenter Mr Gayford.
After hitting Paddles on Tuesday evening, the driver of the car alerted another local to the incident and a short short search resulted in the cat being found at the PM’s property.
The Herald reported the woman hoped Paddles “was merely unconscious” but a vet pronounced the cat dead.
Paddles was “was the gutsiest cat ever,” said a local. “She was a cool cat.”
The SPCA said its thoughts were with the PM and her partner at this sad time.
Said chief executive Andrea Midgen, “We hope they seek comfort in knowing that in adopting Paddles, they gave her a life filled with happiness and love.”