Two months ago, staff at England’s political headquarters decided they’d had enough of the rats that had been plaguing the residence.
Embarrassed by TV footage of rats scurrying by newscasters as they reported from No. 10 Downing Street, they added a Chief Mouser to their staff.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his family adopted Larry, a four-year-old tabby cat, rom the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. According to the shelter, Larry had a “very strong predatory drive and high chase-drive and hunting instinct,” developed during his previous life as a street cat.
While Larry quickly won the hearts of the Cameron family and Downing Street staff, as the weeks went by and he didn’t catch anything but sun rays and toy mice, British tabloids began grumbling about the new recruit’s lack of competence at his job and newscasters wondered if they would ever again be able to report from the door of 10 Downing Street without being “photobombed” by rats.
All that changed last Friday when Larry jumped through a window from the Downing Street garden with a mouse in his mouth. He proudly presented his twitching prey to the prime minister’s secretaries, who are said to have emitted a couple of startled and unhappy noises before they realized that the cat had finally begun to do the job for which he was hired.
When the momentary shock wore off, they smothered Larry with praise and pats of congratulation in hopes that they would inspire him to continue his predatory endeavors.
Once the cat builds his confidence with smaller prey, he may begin to tackle the bigger and nastier rodents that are plaguing the Downing Street building.
Larry is the latest of a long line of Downing Street cats.
When Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, she recruited a stray named Humphrey to deal with the rodent problem. Her successor, John Major, retained Thatcher’s Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, but Humphrey was ousted when Tony Blair came to power in 1997. Rumor had it that Blair’s wife, Cherie, did not appreciate the cat’s contributions to life at 10 Downing Street.