Human Interest

Purrfect catdidate: Mittens battles Ardern, others for New Zealander of Year

Sydney, Australia, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Wellington’s celebrity cat Mittens, who wanders the capital inviting himself into homes and workplaces, has been nominated alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and others for the 2021 New Zealander of the Year award.

Nominations close at the end of the month, but Mittens appears on the list of those up for one of the country’s most prestigious prizes, the organizers confirmed to EFE Friday.

“In this extraordinary year, we know that everyone has a hero,” said awards patron Miriama Kamo in a statement.

“You’ve seen them in action, you’ve heard them, you may live with them – these incredible New Zealanders deserve recognition for stepping up, this year and every year.”

While most Wellingtonians have seen Mittens in action, only a select few get to live with him.

While he has a family – and a brother, Latte, who stays close to home – Mittens is free to roam, visiting shops, bars, the university, restaurants, the post office, churches, and even people’s homes and cars.

The 10-year-old ginger-white longhaired Turkish Angora started to find fame in 2018 when residents kept finding him around the city and taking him to the police station or animal shelter, thinking he was lost.

Now he’s a celebrity with a Key to the City, presented to him in a May ceremony by Wellington’s mayor, along with a certificate inscribed to “Mittens his Floofiness.”

A dedicated Facebook page, titled “The Wondrous Adventures of Mittens,” has a following of 54,000 fans from all over the world where people post news, sightings, fan art and selfies with the feline. There are also crowdsourced maps dedicated to pinpointing the locations he has been seen.

To avoid arguments and undue worry, rules on his Facebook page include “No telling Mittens to go home” (“Mittens goes home when he wants to go home and his owners keep an eye on him… Also he is a cat and cannot read) and “No comments about Mittens being on, crossing, or being close to the road” (“He is street smart and has been known to use crossings and wait for lights.”)

Mittens will take on some of the country’s other beloved figures, including the prime minister, whose compassionate and firm handling of crises has gained recognition worldwide, and New Zealand’s Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, known for his calm and informative daily coronavirus press conferences, and who “there have been a significant number of nominations for,” according to the organizer.

Also in the running are Ardern’s so-called “team of 5 million” (the country’s population for abiding by strict lockdown measures), journalist Patrick Gower, designer Kelly Coe, microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles and musician Dane Rumble.

Last year the award went to actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira.

The winner will be announced on Mar. 18 next year at a gala dinner in Auckland. EFE-EPA


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