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Cats Strut the Runway at the Algonquin Hotel's Feline Fashion Show

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Last night, on Wednesday, August 10, ailurophiles (that is, cat lovers) flocked to New York City's storied Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan for the 10th Annual Cat Fashion Show and an evening filled with sophistication, style, and lots of lint rollers. Felines wearing tiny wigs, outfits, and accessories designed by certified animal fashion designer Ada Nieves strutted around the hotel’s lobby as guests clad in kitty-inspired apparel took photos, enjoyed refreshments, and tried to spot the Algonquin Hotel’s famous lobby cat, a Ragdoll named Matilda III, lurking near the concierge desk.

The Algonquin has owned a series of pampered rescue cats since the early 1920s. Over the decades, 11 kitties have called the luxury lodging home. The male cats are typically named Hamlet after the late stage actor John Barrymore, a notable Algonquin guest who played the cursed Danish king. As for the female cats, they’re called Matilda. (The hotel’s current pet, Matilda III, came to the hotel in 2010 after she was abandoned outside the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York.)

Since 2006, the Algonquin Hotel has celebrated its famous feline residents with an elaborate fashion show. Ticket proceeds are donated to a charitable cause. Last night’s event aimed to raise $10,000 for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. This year, additional funds were also raised through a silent auction offering cat-themed prizes, and an on-site mobile adoption unit parked in front of the hotel from 3 to 7 p.m. offered attendees the chance to take home their very own rescue kitty.

Along with the charity which receives the funds, the fashion show’s theme changes every year. This year attendees celebrated “Through the Decades,” a theme that honored “the iconic looks of the hotel’s most famous guests and patrons, including Al Hirschfeld, Michael Feinstein, Marilyn Monroe, John Barrymore and many more," according to a statement from the Algonquin.

Keeping with the historic vibe, last night’s cat models were clad in pink cocktail dresses, theatric capes, bowler hats, baseball uniforms, and curly wigs. But the evening's guest of honor, Matilda, didn't dress up for the show. 

“We tried once—and it was not pretty,” said Alice de Almeida, the Algonquin Hotel’s “chief cat officer." De Almeida’s job, she tells mental_floss, is to make sure Matilda is “always comfortable, she has all her needs, and she's happy.” De Almeida also manages Matilda III’s social media accounts.

When Matilda III first made her “grand debut” at the Algonquin in 2010, “we thought it would be great if we gave her a royal robe trimmed in fake fur,” de Almeida explained. “It didn’t work.” (Matilda herself only made one or two appearances at last night's fashion show before disappearing into a back room.)

As for the writers, critics, actors, and humorists who populated the Algonquin Hotel’s infamous Round Table, what would they think of their former haunt hosting a cat fashion show? 

“They really liked making fun of people, so they would have thought this was hilarious,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, president and founder of the Dorothy Parker Society, who attended last night’s celebration. “I mean, think about it: You're here for a cat fashion show, so that's kind of humorous right there."

Parker and her friends would likely satirize the humans—not the animals—in attendance, Fitzpatrick told mental_floss. The Round Table’s members "were animal lovers," he said. "Dorothy Parker always had a dog her entire life, ever since she was a little girl, and a lot of them had pets. They all betted on the horses, too, so they were big horse lovers. They would have thought this was hilarious.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the best looks and mew-ments from last night’s show:

American caricaturist Al Hirschfeld

 

American critic, writer, and satirist Dorothy Parker

 

Baseball player Joe DiMaggio

 

Musician Michael Feinstein

 

American comedian and second-oldest of the Marx Brothers

 

My Fair Lady (written in Room 502 of the Algonquin Hotel by Broadway lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Lowe)

 

Actor John Barrymore, as Hamlet

 

Marilyn Monroe

 

The Algonquin Hotel's future: the "Millennial Cat"

 

Actor Douglas Fairbanks, as Robin Hood

Matilda, the famous Algonquin Hotel cat, didn't participate in the fashion show—but she did make a brief appearance in the hotel lobby.

 

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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10 Science-Backed Tips for Getting a Cat to Like You
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Like so many other humans, you might find cats to be mysterious creatures. But believe it or not, it’s not that hard to make friends with a feline, if you know what to do. Here are some tips on how to effectively buddy up with a kitty, drawn from scientific studies and my own experience as a researcher and cat behavioral consultant.

1. LET THE CAT CALL THE SHOTS.

When we see cats, we really want to pet them—but according to two Swiss studies, the best approach is to let kitty make the first move.

Research done in 51 Swiss homes with cats has shown that when humans sit back and wait—and focus on something else, like a good book—a cat is more likely to approach, and less likely to withdraw when people respond. (This preference explains why so many kitties are attracted to people with allergies—because allergic people are usually trying to not pet them.) Another study found that interactions last longer and are more positive when the kitty both initiates the activity and decides when it ends. Play a little hard to get, and you might find that they can’t get enough of you.

2. APPROACH A CAT THE WAY THEY GREET EACH OTHER (SORT OF).

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Felines who are friendly with each other greet each other nose to nose. You can mimic that behavior by offering a non-threatening finger tip at their nose level, a few inches away. Don’t hover, just bend down and gently extend your hand. Many cats will walk up and sniff your finger, and may even rub into it. Now that's a successful greeting.

3. PET CATS WHERE THEY LIKE IT MOST …

They're very sensitive to touch, and generally, they tend to like being petted in some places more than others. A small 2002 study demonstrated that cats showed more positive responses—like purring, blinking, and kneading their paws—to petting on the forehead area and the cheeks. They were more likely to react negatively—by hissing, swatting, or swishing their tails—when petted in the tail area. A more recent study validated these findings with a larger sample size—and many owners can testify to these preferences.

Of course, every animal is an individual, but these studies give us a good starting point, especially if you're meeting a cat for the first time.

4. … AND IF YOU GET NEGATIVE FEEDBACK, GIVE THE CAT SOME SPACE.

There are plenty of signs that a cat doesn't like your actions. These can range from the overt—such as hissing and biting—to the more subtle: flattening their ears, looking at your hand, or twitching their tails. When you get one of those signals, it’s time to back off.

Many of the owners I work with to correct behavioral issues don't retreat when they should, partially because they enjoy the experience of petting their cat so much that they fail to recognize that kitty isn’t enjoying it too. You can’t force a feline to like being handled (this is especially true of feral cats), but when they learn that you’ll respect their terms, the more likely they will be to trust you—and come back for more attention when they're ready.

5. DON’T OVERFEED YOUR CAT.

Many think that food equals love, and that withholding food might make your kitty hate you, but a recent study of obese felines from Cornell University showed the opposite is true—at least for a period of time. About a month after 58 overweight kitties were placed on a diet, three-quarters of their owners reported that their dieting felines were more affectionate, purred more often, and were more likely to sit in their owner's lap. This adorable behavior came with some not-so-cute side effects—the cats also begged and meowed more—but by week eight, both the good and bad behavior had abated for about half the animals.

Regardless of whether a diet makes your pet cuddlier, keeping your pet on the slender side is a great way to help them stay healthy and ward off problems like diabetes, joint pain, and uncleanliness. (Overweight animals have difficulty grooming themselves—and do you really want them sitting on your lap if they can’t keep their butt clean?)

6. PLAY WITH THEM—A LOT.

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Most of the behavior problems that I've witnessed stem from boredom and a lack of routine playtime. No one thinks twice about walking their dog every day, but many people fail to recognize that felines are stealth predators who need a regular outlet for that energy. A recent study suggested that cats prefer human interaction over food, but a closer look at the data demonstrated that what really attracted them to humans was the presence of an interactive toy. One of their top choices is a wand-style toy with feathers, strings, or other prey-like attachments that evoke predatory behavior. Daily interactive play is a great way to bond with them when they’re not in the mood to cuddle—and to keep them fit. Try the Go-Cat Da Bird or any of Neko Flies interchangeable cat toys.  

7. KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS.

A study conducted in Italy showed that felines who stayed mostly indoors (they had one hour of supervised access to a small garden each day) were more “in sync” with their owners than felines who were allowed free access to the outdoors. The indoor kitties were more active during the day, when their owners were likely to be active, and less active at night, when humans like to sleep. (Many people believe cats are nocturnal, but they are naturally crepuscular—active at dawn and dusk.)

8. SOCIALIZE CATS WHEN THEY'RE YOUNG.

Multiple studies have shown that just a few minutes a day of positive handling by humans helps kittens grow up to be friendlier and more trusting of humans. The ideal age to socialize kittens is when they're between 2 and 9 weeks old. One 2008 study found that shelter kittens that had been given a lot of "enhanced socialization"—additional attention, affection, and play—were, a year later, more affectionate with their owners and less fearful than other kittens adopted from the same shelters.

You can help socialize kittens by volunteering as a foster caretaker. Fostering ensures they get plenty of interaction with people, which will help them will be comfortable around potential adopters. You'll also be doing your local shelter a huge favor by alleviating overcrowding.

9. TAKE THE CAT'S PERSONALITY—AND YOUR OWN—INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN ADOPTING.

If you want to adopt an older animal, take some time at the shelter to get to know them first, since adopters of adult cats report that personality played a big role in their decision to take an animal home permanently and had an impact on their satisfaction with their new companion. Better yet, foster one first. Shelters can be stressful, so you'll get a better sense of what an animal is really like when they're in your home. Not all cats are socialized well when they're young, so a cat may have their own unique rules about what kinds of interactions they're okay with.

It's also key to remember that a cat's appearance isn't indicative of their personality—and it's not just black cats who get a bad rap. In 2012, I published a study with 189 participants that showed that people were likely to assign personality traits to felines based solely on their fur color. Among other things, they tended to think orange cats would be the nicest and white cats the most aloof. (Needless to say, these are inaccurate assumptions.) And it's not just the kitty's personality that matters—yours is important too. Another study I conducted in 2014 of nearly 1100 pet owners suggested that self-identified “cat people” tend to be more introverted and anxious when compared to dog people. (We’re also more prone to being open-minded and creative, so it’s not all bad.) If you’re outgoing and active, a more playful feline could be for you. If you prefer nights spent snuggling on the couch, a mellow, shy-but-sweet lovebug could be your perfect pet.

10. BE A KEEN OBSERVER OF THEIR BEHAVIOR.

Overall, use your common sense. Be a diligent and objective observer of how they respond to your actions. Feline body language can be subtle—something as small as an eye-blink can indicate contentment, while ear twitches might signal irritation—but as you learn their cues, you'll find yourself much more in tune with how they're feeling. And if you adjust your behaviors accordingly, you'll find soon enough that you've earned a cat's trust.

Mikel Delgado received her Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley in psychology studying animal behavior and human-pet relationships. She's a researcher at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and co-founder of the cat behavior consulting company Feline Minds.

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New Subscription Service Will Give You 24/7 Access to Veterinary Expertise for $10 a Month
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When your dog eats a sock at 9 p.m. on a Friday night, you have very few options. You could take her to the 24-hour emergency vet, but those visits are expensive. You could look online and obsess over whether the advice you find about helping her puke it up at home, DIY style, is at all credible. Or you could just cross your fingers and hope that this, too, shall pass.

A new subscription service is designed to lend a hand in stressful pet-related situations like this, as Fast Company reports. Fuzzy Connect provides a direct line to a veterinarian 24/7 for $10 a month.

The smartphone app offers an unlimited live chat through which you can send videos, photos, and texts to get help with whatever pet-related issue you have. Though the vets on staff will definitely help you figure out what to do if your cat ate a string or your dog ate an entire chocolate cake, the service isn’t just for emergencies. You can chat with a vet about your pet’s diet, house-training issues, or vaccinations. You can even ask broader questions, like what paperwork you need to take your dog out of the country.

If you're in the San Francisco Bay area, you can also take advantage of the Wellness plan, which includes two in-home vet checkups a year, a medication mailing service, and basic vaccines for $39 a month.

If you’re a fairly relaxed person with a pet who doesn’t go around eating strange objects on a regular basis, Fuzzy Connect might not be that worth it, especially if you already pay for pet insurance. But if you’re a neurotic cat dad or dog mom whose beloved friend often gets up to no good, having a professional on hand for reassurance and guidance might not be the worst investment.

[h/t Fast Company]

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