New Zealand's much-loved 'first cat' Paddles dies after being run over by car

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's cat had become a social media star in recent weeks

New Zealand's much-loved 'first cat' Paddles dies after being run over by car

Paddles. Image via @FirstCatofNZ / Twitter

New Zealand's 'first cat' and unlikely internet star Paddles has died after being run over by a car.

The white and ginger cat belonged to the newly-appointed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford.

A spokesperson told Stuff.co.nz that the cat died had been hit by a car near the prime minister's home in Point Chevalier.

A Twitter account in Paddles' name had amassed more than 10,000 followers and thousands of likes & retweets of photos.

The local popularity of Paddles prompted international coverage, with Vanity Fair writing that "New Zealand's hip, young prime minister comes complete with a tech-savvy cat".

In an Instagram post, Ms Ardern confirmed her cat had passed away, saying: "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.

"And on behalf of Paddles, please be kind to the [Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals]. They found her before we did, and we will always be grateful for that."

Mr Gayson said that "our crazy little 'sleep anywhere' ginger will be sorely missed".

Meanwhile, the humans behind the Paddles Twitter account retweeted dozens of tributes to the late cat: