You’re likely familiar with TODAY’s very own Al Roker, the weather anchor and experienced cook who has been a fixture on the air for over four decades. But do you know his furry namesake, Al Roker the kitten?
The 11-week-old domestic shorthair currently lives in Durham, North Carolina, with foster mom Haley Pryor and is looking for his fur-ever home. Al, as Pryor calls him, first came to live with her two weeks ago, in a setup arranged by 2 Paws Up, a nonprofit rescue organization in Raleigh, North Carolina that's connected to a veterinary office.
In an email to TODAY, Dr. Jessica Stall, a veterinarian at 2 Paws Up, explained that Al had been in a local animal shelter.
"They came to us on 4/26/21 from the Granville County Animal Shelter - one of their foster homes had been bottle feeding them for a couple of weeks and they were starting to eat on their own. Al will be in foster with Haley until he is adopted," Stall wrote.
Al has quickly adapted to his new residence and roommates. Pryor, 25, also has her own cat named Mocha and is fostering another cat named Marty. She describes young Al as the most fun-loving of the feline bunch.
“My first impression was just that he was very energetic, because the foster I had right before him, honestly took like three or four days to even approach me and as soon as I opened the carrier, AI was like, 'I want to play, I want to snuggle. I want food, like whatever you have, I want it,' Pryor told TODAY via phone. “So that was my first impression, that he is extremely sociable and friendly."
According to Stall, the veterinary staff also refer to the kitten simply as Al.
"One of the veterinary assistants named him and his littermates after different news icons," Stall wrote, adding that other cats in the litter have been named after Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Jim Cantore.
Pryor said she felt the name was a good fit for the active kitten. “I do know of Al Roker, like I watch the TODAY Show on holidays and things. I didn't know where the name came from and I was like, 'Oh that's cute.' ... Al Roker the human seems very friendly. And the cat really likes looking out the window. He looks out the window all the time.”
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Al has primarily black fur with a tuft of white fur by his neck and belly and white whiskers.
“He's extremely fluffy,” Pryor said. “My partner is always like, ‘He always looks so disheveled,’ and like that's 'cause his hair is so long, and especially on such a small kitten.”
All that fur makes Al the rare huggable kitty. “I would say he's a little bit more snuggly than a kitten normally is because kittens normally don't want to sit still and Al's a little bit more capable of laying down and sleeping and cuddling with you,” said Pryor.
If he’s not resting, you’ll likely find Al playing, wrestling and living his best life.
“He’s definitely a fun, playful cat. He wants to play whenever you want to play,” Pryor added.
To adopt Al Roker the kitten, the future owner will have to pay a $120 adoption fee, which covers the cost of neutering, a microchip and vaccines, among other services. Interested parties can read more about Al and fill out an application form on his Petfinder listing.
Pryor, an analyst in cell and gene therapy research, is also a certified animal behaviorist who helps clients with cats who have behavior problems. She encourages anyone interested to give animal fostering a try.
“I think the biggest thing that prevents people from fostering is one, the time and space, and also the emotional availability that people have, because animal welfare work is actually very emotional, emotionally draining," Pryor said. "… But it is rewarding when you think about it. We need adopters, but we also need fosters.”
And for those with pets already, fostering isn’t out of the question. “You can have permanent cats and have fosters,” Pryor explained, “like I have a permanent cat and I have fosters and it's worked out just fine.”
Pryor said that kittens in particular get adopted at a rapid pace, with most being adopted within a month, though older cats are considered less often.
Stall echoed Pryor's call for more foster pet parents. She added that during the pandemic, more people seemed interested in fostering, but that interest is already declining as restrictions are lifted.
At the end of the day, Pryor says the entire fostering experience has been a fulfilling one. “I would like to tell everyone to foster because it's a great experience, and we need fosters all the time.”
And in case you were wondering, Al Roker the kitten isn't the only animal named after TODAY's legendary broadcaster. There's also "Al Roker The Cat" with their own Instagram page.