Keith Hernandez with his cat, Hadji.

Keith Hernandez with his cat, Hadji. Credit: X/Keith Hernandez

The coolest cat in New York sports is mostly blind, deaf and half the weight he was in his prime. But as he gets set to turn 21½ on April 10, his famous owner and friend is helping him stay as happy and healthy as circumstances allow.

“I am going to try to keep him going,” SNY analyst Keith Hernandez told Newsday about his cat, Hadji. “As long as he’s eating and wanting to live, I’m going to give him every possible thing to help him along.”

Normally, the well-being of an elderly cat is not news beyond its immediate circle. But Hadji in recent years has become a celebrity through exposure on SNY, on social media and throughout Mets fandom.

The Bengal cat was a fixture in Hernandez’s early activity on the site then known as Twitter, notably in a star-making 2018 appearance in which Hernandez took him along to pick up the morning newspapers in his driveway.

Soon fans were waving pictures of Hadji at games, and his face was on T-shirts.

Hernandez has joked about making Hadji the most famous cat since Garfield, and later fretted that his head was getting too big from stardom.

But those days are mostly over now. Hadji does not climb around Hernandez’s homes in Sag Harbor and Florida the way he used to. His weight is down from a peak of 15 pounds to about 7.

He spends most of his time in the master bathroom, where the tile floor is heated and his litter box is kept. “If I let him roam the house, he gets lost, and he’s apt to make a mistake,” Hernandez said.

Once a week, Hadji gets hydration fluids to help his renal system keep up, and once a month he gets an injection to help him with his arthritis. He also takes special vitamins with his food twice a day.

“My vet in Southampton basically said, in human years, he's approaching 100 years of age,” Hernandez said. “So he's an old cat. But he's tough as nails.”

Hernandez got Hadji as a kitten in 2002. He is named after a character on the mid-1960s animated television show "Jonny Quest."

When Hernandez and his second wife split in 2011, she got the dog and he got Hadji, because a cat is a better fit for a traveling sports announcer’s lifestyle.

Hadji, Keith Hernandez's Bengal cat, turns 21 1/2 on April...

Hadji, Keith Hernandez's Bengal cat, turns 21 1/2 on April 10. Credit: X/Keith Hernandez

A neighbor who has known Hadji since he was a kitten feeds him when Hernandez is on the road with the Mets.

“He has a voracious appetite, which is a good sign,” Hernandez said. “As long as he’s eating, he wants to still be kickin’.”

Hernandez knows that he is blessed to have had Hadji this long and has accepted that there will come a time when he no longer does.

“I am fine with it,” he said. “He's happy. I wake up in the morning, I pick him up and put him in bed and he likes to lay on my chest and I give him a little TLC and he purrs. I take him out when I can and hold him. He’s still active.

“I’m holding up all right. The inevitable is going to happen sooner or later. But I think he's going to make it through the season. I think he's going to get another offseason down in Florida in the warmth.”

Hernandez, 70, is a lifelong pet-lover. In his youth, he had a dog and a cat, but once he began his pro career in 1972, pets no longer were an option.

When he later was settled in St. Louis, he got his children a golden retriever to introduce them to pet ownership. Then came his late-in-life friendship with Hadji.

Last October, Hernandez held Hadji during an SNY video in which he thanked fans for well wishes on Hadji’s 21st birthday on Oct. 10 and Hernandez’s 70th birthday on Oct. 20.

The cat has his own social media accounts under the handle @KeithPurrnandez.

Hernandez’s fans, friends and colleagues know how much Hadji means to him and have joined in on the fun of following the cat’s exploits.

When Hernandez got a call in the SNY booth during an April 2021 Mets game and said there was “a slight emergency at home,” play-by-play man Gary Cohen immediately knew what that could mean, saying, “Is Hadji OK?”

He was, mostly, but the cat-sitter had jammed her key in Hernandez’s door and was unable to get in.

While it was not the original intent, Hernandez believes Hadji’s stardom has helped to humanize him in contrast to his larger-than-life persona in Mets lore.

“People think of [sports stars] as not having normal lives sometimes,” he said. “I go to the grocery store. I go to the dry cleaners. But they think that we have a life that's not the normal life.

“I think [fans] like the fact that I love animals, and I certainly love Hadji.”

More sports media


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months