Cats on tap: the New York breweries and hotels where you can hang out with feline friends

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Apparently, I’m not the only one who gains weight during hotel stays. Hamlet the Eighth, a long-term guest at the Algonquin hotel in New York, is also struggling to shed his post-pandemic pounds. But it’s not the room service that’s to blame for his excess calories. It’s the guests who can’t resist giving him treats. Hamlet is part of a growing number of working cats in New York, employed for both their rat-catching abilities and their friendly demeanor.

New York is known for its rat problem, which is why the Algonquin hotel recently appointed its first “rat czar”. Sheila Massey, founder of Hard Hat Cats, is another individual doing her part to combat the issue. Previously, she worked with volunteer groups to neuter and vaccinate stray cats before returning them to their colonies. She discovered that these working cats not only prevented breeding, but also deterred rats. Inspired by the success of working cats in a Chicago brewery, Sheila started Hard Hat Cats. The organization works with shelters to find homes for cats that are not suitable for families but are a perfect fit for distilleries, breweries, and hotels.

One example of a working cat’s success is Harold and Maude, two Hard Hat Cats at Brooklyn’s Kings County Distillery. They were adopted by the distillery’s visitor services manager, Aline Nocera, and have become beloved members of the workforce. Their role has evolved from active rat hunters to simply deterring rodents through their presence. They now spend their days bonding with employees and meeting visitors on tours.

Other working cats in New York have also found their forever homes. Amor, who previously worked at Five Boroughs Brewing, was adopted by an employee and became a cherished pet. Oreo resides at the Stamford Suites Hotel, and Elizabeth, a male, one-eyed cat, is a resident at Torch & Crown Brewing, even having a beer named in his honor.

Marlon, the cat at Evil Twin Brewing, is not only a brewery cat but also the inspiration behind several beer names and the star of the brewery’s mural. He is owned by a local family who are regulars at the brewery. Similarly, Simcoe at Grimm Artisanal Ales was adopted from a shelter and named after a type of hop. Simcoe is a friendly cat who enjoys being petted but also has the skills to catch rats if necessary.

Gasket, a one-year-old former stray, found his way into the Bronx Brewery’s taproom and has become a favorite among visitors and employees. Despite not having honed his rat-catching abilities yet, Gasket brings joy to everyone he encounters.

Back at the Algonquin hotel, Hamlet the Eighth has a long line of celebrity cat ancestors. The tradition of having cats at the hotel started when the late actor John Barrymore, Drew Barrymore’s grandfather, brought a stray cat to the hotel after a night of drinking. Since then, Hamlet and his predecessors have been warm, welcoming, and beloved by guests. Hamlet’s Instagram account has even more followers than the hotel’s.

While these working cats have certainly made a difference in controlling the rat population, their primary focus now is on socializing with employees and visitors. They have become cherished members of the communities they serve.

In conclusion, these working cats in New York have proven to be effective rat deterrents while also providing comfort and joy to those they encounter. They have found their forever homes in distilleries, breweries, and hotels, and are living their best lives as hybrids of traditional working animals and pets. The impact they have had on their communities is undeniable, and their popularity continues to grow.

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