Known for its beehive-shaped parliament building, iconic red cable cars and extreme wind gusts, the city of Wellington now has another claim to fame thanks to the antics of a 10-year-old Turkish Angora named Mittens the cat.
Known affectionately by locals as His Royal Floofiness, this feline flâneur is making headlines around the world for his inner-city wanderings that have him turning up everywhere from the post office to the police station, and even shaking his tail at the local salsa club.
But it’s this celebrity cat’s nomination for New Zealander of the Year, alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, that has turned this unassuming little kitty into a household name.
So who exactly is Mittens, and how has he found himself in the running for this little island nation’s most prestigious award?
A moggie on a mission
Born in Auckland in 2010, Mittens and his brother Latte moved to Wellington in 2017 with their owner Silvio Bruinsma where they settled in the inner-city suburb of Te Aro.
Unlike Latte, who prefers living the quiet life at home, Mittens is the ultimate lad about town, an active adventurer and notorious nomad who prefers the hustle and bustle of city life to slow living and sofa snoozing. And it’s his intrepid journeys that have led this fearless feline to become front-page fodder.
Out the door at first light and rarely home before the clock strikes midnight, Mittens spends his days attending classes at Victoria University, catching up on the latest hair trends at local salons, and joining in on birthday celebrations and family gatherings at some of the city's hippest eateries. And he’s not averse to a bit of nightlife either, regularly frequenting watering holes throughout the city, where he happily props himself up on the bar and watches with interest while mixologists whip up cocktails for Wellington’s booming student population.
After three years living it up in the country’s capital, bringing joy to locals and tourists alike, 2020 has seen Mittens scoop not one, but two top honors, bringing him global stardom and a growing Facebook fan base. It’s all a far cry from his darkest day just over 12 months ago when this little fur baby found himself on the wrong side of the law.
With his mugshot and paw prints making headlines throughout the country, May 2019 was not Mitten’s finest month. Brought into the Wellington Central Police Station and detained for questioning, this ginger ninja wasn’t accused of the murder of a mouse or the theft of catnip, but was instead interrogated by Sergeant Janine Davie for failing to check both ways before crossing a busy road after emerging from time spent perusing the bookshelves at the local library.
While he was threatened with arrest and jail time, Mittens was eventually let go without charge after giving his purr of approval to the conditions of his release: that he must cross the city's roads safely. He has since been seen waiting patiently at signalized crosswalks watching for the little green man that indicates it's safe for him to go.
Collecting keys and winning hearts
A year after his brush with the law, Mittens found himself having his photo and paw prints taken again – this time for all the right reasons. At a small ceremony in Mayor Andy Foster’s chambers, Mittens was rewarded for bringing joy and happiness to Wellington residents and awarded the keys to the city, joining the ranks of an illustrious line of recipients, including Lord of the Rings director, Sir Peter Jackson.
And now the unflappable feline has found himself in the running to take out the country’s highest honour: New Zealander of the Year. He faces stiff competition from dynamic duo Ardern and Bloomfield, whose outstanding leadership during the Coronavirus crisis has them leading the pack, but regardless of whether he becomes the first cat to wear the crown, it’s clear that this little traveling Turkish Angora has won the hearts of a nation.
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