There has been an outpouring of grief in New Zealand after the prime minister’s popular cat was killed in a car accident.
Paddles, the ginger moggy of Jacinda Ardern, was well-known for having an extra thumb-like toe on each of its front legs.
She died after being hit by a car on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for Ardern.
The cat’s rise to social media fame matched Ardern’s meteoric ascent to the prime ministership after only taking over as leader of her Labour Party in August.
A “First Cat of NZ” Twitter account was setup by an anonymous user last month, featuring regular tweets about the photogenic cat’s famous “mummy”, Ardern, and quickly attracted 11,000 followers.
Hi, I’m Paddles and I am the First Cat of New Zealand. I have opposable thumbs, I’m purrty special. pic.twitter.com/MPkxdhWCRu— Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ) October 21, 2017
You asked fur it. pic.twitter.com/JQuCpqiLej— Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ) November 2, 2017
“To anyone who has ever lost a pet, you’ll know how sad we feel. Paddles was much loved, and not just by us. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts,” Ardern wrote on Facebook.
Ardern’s rise to power has generated intense interest in her personal life and drew comparisons with other youthful trailblazers such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
And, according to Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, Paddles often played her part in affairs of state, even interrupting the premier’s first call with US President Donald Trump in October.
“As the call was transferred our cat (yes that bloody cat) came flying through the cat-flap,” Gayford, a television presenter, wrote in a column for the Spinoff news website.
“She leapt up onto the chair next to Jacinda and began announcing her very squawky arrival,” he wrote.