Paddles is newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “Right Hand Paw”. The now famous fur baby has his own Twitter account and has made headlines around the world as “First Cat” of New Zealand. Photographs of Jacinda cradling her beloved pet, clearly indicates she is another New Zealand cat lover.

New Zealand Prime Minister with Paddles

 Research reveals that 64 percent of New Zealand homes own a pet. Dogs live with 30 percent of families and total 683,000 while cats live in 44 percent of homes. In fact, New Zealand has the world’s highest cat ownership per capita.


It is believed as far back as 9,500 years ago Neolithic men bonded with cats however Egyptians were the first to domesticate these intelligent animals 4000 years ago when they used them to catch rats and other pests in their food stores. Like humans ever since, the Egyptians had pets around them. Apart from dogs, their pets also included doves, ferrets, monkeys and even lions and cheetahs but their most favoured pet was the beguiling cat. Cats were so important in Egypt that it became a crime to kill one. They even went so far as to treat some as gods and goddesses and it was quite common to mummify them.

Cats celebrated in Ancient Egypt

From Egypt, cats appeared in Iran and Turkey before becoming popular pets in the Roman Empire. During the superstitious and backward Middle Ages, cats were demonized and regarded as evil. They were associated with the occult and witches but after that phase passed, they again found favour with the general population and by the 18th Century, cats were popular household pets across the entire world.


A Swiss study conducted in 2003 revealed that owning a cat is similar to having a romantic partner and a 20 year study published in 2009 revealed that cat owners are less likely of having a stroke than any other pet owner. Scientists believe this is because of a cat’s low-maintenance. The University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute confirmed that those who do not own cats are 30-40% more likely to die of heart attacks than their cat-owning counterparts. Apart from experiencing unconditional love from a cat, owning one also triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of love and trust and also decreases stress levels. Talking to a feline friend during difficult times helps work out feelings, since it is easy to talk to a pet that won’t judge you. In addition, children with autism were more likely to be less anxious and calm while petting a cat. Being exposed to cat fur in the house also increases resistance to allergens which in turn reduces the risk of asthma.

If all this is not enough, cat owners are known to have lower blood pressure than non-cat owners due to the fur baby’s calming presence in the house.

Cat ownership enhances the owner’s ability to socialize because chatting about their fur baby provides a natural conversation starter. One study revealed that women were more attracted to men who owned cats because cat ownership suggests sensitivity and intelligence.


I’m a cat lover! For 12 years, I shared my life with Mozart. He was my close companion through thick and thin. For a year, he was forced to live with tenants in my house while I was working overseas. As it turned out, it was a rough time for him. Despite saying they had no pets they brought their own cat with them. They left the house three days before I was given the keys to return myself. Although it was nine years ago now, I have never forgotten the sight of little Mozart sitting in the centre of the empty lounge room on the dirty carpet looking soul freezingly depressed. He turned to me and gave me such a sad look it brought a tear to my eye. As animals do, he quickly forgave me for what he must have thought was my fault that he had suffered such a terrible year where he was made to feel a stranger in his own home. A neighbour told me how Mozart was not accepted by the tenants. They fed him but gave him no love. After that episode, I made sure my fur baby would be loved even more than he had been before I went away. Over the following 7 years, Mozart and I were the best of buddies. He ‘wrote’ two books about his experiences and his take on life. Both books have been read by cat lovers across the world and some have told me how Mozart’s advice had given them encouragement and inspiration. (links to The Little Cat Who loved Me and The Most Beautifulist Pussycat in the World can both be found beside or below this blog)

Mozart in Deep Thought while ‘Writing’ His First Book

When it was his time to leave me, I cradled my best friend in my arms as he took his last breath. I left the vet with an overwhelming feeling of loss and for the following weeks the world seemed a harsher place.

Two months dragged by and I was sitting in the lounge room when I looked up to see a cat staring at me through the glass front door. My heart skipped a beat as he was the spitting image of Mozart. I stepped over to the door to open it when a ginger cat with no tail, step up to him and sat beside him. I had never seen either cat before and still wonder today where they came from. I opened the door and they walked inside a little hesitantly. I could see they were buddies. Socrates and Plato have been with me ever since that day. They have completely different personalities and builds. Socrates is tall and slim with big ears. He has a bent tail a result of being broken at some stage. He is also a little shy and tends to stand back to allow Plato to be centre stage. Plato, as I said, has no tail. He is short and tubby (although he doesn’t eat much). He is also chock full of personality and is more like a small kid than a cat. I love them both to bits but still miss Mozart’s company. I have a picture of him near the couch to smile at from time to time.

Plato RelaxingSocrates Relaxing

The three of us bonded quickly then just four months ago, the neighbours behind me left and abandoned the young black cat they had somehow got hold of for their kids.

I didn’t want a third cat but I could see the lonely little creature was starving so I gave her some food. At the same time, I tried to find a home for her but I had no luck. I named her Molly Molly and she has now become a member of the family. She is completely black. There is not even one white hair on her entire body. Molly Molly has a shoe fetish and loves to play with them. The boys can’t be bothered with her and she negotiates around them on tip toe but they don’t fight and have begrudgingly accepted her. She is a bit slow in the brains department and has never managed to work out how to use the cat door despite watching Plato and Socrates coming and going through it. As a result, I have to get up every time she wants in or out. Guess it keeps me active!!

Molly Molly Relaxing

I know my life has been enriched having Socrates, Plato and Molly Molly living with me. I can easily understand why New Zealand has the world’s highest cat ownership per capita. It is obvious I am not the only one to feel such love for our fur babies.

Best Mates Socrates and Plato

While Paddles is the nation’s “Right Hand Paw”, Boots is New Zealand’s diplocat in London. The mature ginger cat started life at the Kapiti SPCA 13 years ago and was adopted by Sir Gerry and Lady Janine Mateparae. When they took up residence at the High Commission, they took their fur baby with them. By all accounts, Boots has settled well into life in London and is doing a great job keeping mice away and is popular with visitors to the High Commission.

Leave a comment if you’re a cat lover too.

Ceidrik Heward

Postscript: On Wednesday 8th November, Paddles, New Zealand’s “First Cat”, sadly died after being run over in Wellington. It is a sad day for the new Prime Minister who loved her fur baby dearly.

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