Paddles the much loved "First Cat" was a local hero and an international celebrity.

"She was the gutsiest cat ever. She was a cool cat."

That was the sentiment today in Pt Chevalier where Paddles the Prime Puss shared a pad with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford. Paddles was found yesterday after being hit by a car.

The driver told a local who went to look for Paddles and found her at the PM's property.

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Hoping the cat was merely unconscious, the woman took Paddles to a vet who declared Paddles dead. "I'm pretty upset," the neighbour said.

"She's very much part of the neighbourhood. Most people around here would know who she is."

Ardern has encouraged people grieving for Paddles to support the SPCA.

Ardern said on Facebook: "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 SPCA. They found her before we did, and we will always be grateful for that."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister had earlier confirmed: "Yes, sadly Paddles has died after being run over by a car near the Pt Chevalier home of the PM yesterday evening."

Paddles, a ginger SPCA cat, had become a celebrity in its own right, and a Twitter account had been established in its name.

The creator of Padddles' Twitter account said Gayford asked that people make a donation to the SPCA if they wished to remember the feline.

Ardern had joked that Paddles was a "polydactyl", with extra claws that look like opposable thumbs, and ran the account itself.

The account tweeted this morning: "V sad PR Guy here. Tysm for loving Paddles, the whole world will mourn her. Not bad for a lil SPCA puss."

Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford said Paddles had nearly derailed her call with US President Donald Trump by running into the room and miaowing loudly.

"As the call was transferred our cat (yes that bloody cat) came flying through the cat-flap. She leaped up onto the chair next to Jacinda and began announcing her very squawky arrival. There was a flurry of action as I tried to hustle it into the next room while quite literally the leader of the free world was connected through to our little home in Pt Chev."

Gayford had expressed surprise at Paddles' rise to stardom, noting that a friend had sent him an article about his cat in a Danish newspaper.

Even the Huffington Post described Paddles as "the most powerful cat In New Zealand".

Vanity Fair had also reported on Paddles' fame.

Ardern also lost her grandmother recently, attending her funeral on the final day of the election campaign.

Social media has lit up as people posted their feelings about the loss of Paddles.

Adrian Jenkins: "So sad! Bring on a state funeral and we need a replacement ASAP. We have to have a first cat!"

Warren Edgecombe: "Gareth Morgan reaps his revenge".

The SPCA today said its thoughts were with the Prime Minister and her partner at this sad time.

However, the couple could take comfort that they provided their cherished adopted pet with a life filled with "happiness and love".

"Our thoughts are with Jacinda and Clarke after the loss of Paddles," said chief executive Andrea Midgen.

"We know that the death of a pet is a hard time for any family, and a sudden and untimely death is particularly difficult.

"We hope that they seek comfort in knowing that in adopting Paddles, they gave her a life filled with happiness and love."