Cat Tourism: Finding Pints and Pussycats in Pubs in England


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of an English pub. Lately, British pubs have been in the news not for their handcrafted ales or delicious grub but for their resident cats. So next time you visit Britain and want to enjoy a pint, seek a feline-friendly establishment where a cat will greet you at the door, sit on your lap by a log fire, or sprawl out on the bar counter eavesdropping on your conversation while soliciting pats and chin scratches.

Check out these furry favorites.

1. The Bag o’ Nails, Bristol

The best customer-to-cat ratio is without doubt at the Bag o’ Nails, a tiny establishment in Bristol that seats 30 customers at any one time and has 15 cats and kittens to keep them company. “They are very much at home everywhere, and sometimes it’s hard to find a place to sit,” said owner Luke Daniels. All the resident felines were born in the pub.

Boris enjoys Lego night at the Bag O'Nails. (Courtesy the Bag O'Nails)
Boris enjoys Lego night at the Bag O’Nails. Photo courtesy the Bag O’Nails

Luke, who has owned the pub for four years, said he always wanted a cat. A friend presented him with a silver tabby with ginger flecks named Malcolm. Then a stray cat turned up and stayed. Luke named him Beresford after a former landlord of the pub.

“She had a litter of five kittens,” Luke said. “We adopted two of them out to pub regulars and kept the remaining three. They in turn produced litters, and the numbers grew.” Luke has had fun naming them after beverages, such as Absinthe, and ancient Romans including Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula. He is now controlling the number of feline residents, and all his cats have been spayed or neutered.

(Courtesy the Bag O'Nails)
Photo courtesy the Bag o’ Nails

The pub is famous for its game nights, and Lego building is a favorite.

“I bought a whole big box of vintage Legos from a charity shop, and now we hold weekly Lego nights on Thursdays,” Luke said. “For some reason, the cats love sleeping on Legos as much as they like to sleep in boxes on the bar counter.”

2. The Pelton Arms, Greenwich

Jay Macey is the manager at the Pelton Arms in Greenwich, southeast London. Jay says one reason many pubs have felines is because cats are tax deductible. They are listed on a British tax return as “pest control.”

Many English pubs are 200 years old or older. No doubt, back in the day, having a resident mouse catcher was viable pest control. These days, there is no mousing work for resident black cat Salem, but he hasn’t lost his hunting skills and occasionally goes off and finds mice in the neighborhood, which he brings back to the pub.

“He’s definitely not bringing them to us as gifts,” Jay said. “He’s very proprietary about his catches.”

Lots of atmosphere at the Pelton Arms.
Lots of atmosphere at the Pelton Arms.

While Salem has a large fan following and loves everyone, he has his favorite customers and is the self-appointed muse for a writer who comes in regularly. When the cat sees him, Salem immediately climbs on his lap and stays there while he writes.

The pub is known for its Sunday roasts, and Salem gets to partake of this weekly tradition. And every Christmas, he is given his own place at the table.

3. The Gunmakers, Marylebone

Purdy keeps an eye on everything at the Gunmakers.

Purdy keeps an eye on everything at the Gunmakers.

This pub in the Marylebone district of London also has a black cat. (Black cats are considered good luck in England.) Purdy can be found snoozing on a sofa at any time of the day or night. According to the staff, he considers himself a pub “decoration” and prefers to snooze rather than interact with guests.


4. The Pride of Spitalfields, East London

At this pub, cats Lenny and Patches rule the roost. Both were adopted from a local animal rescue organization. Patches tends to gravitate to quiet out-of-the way places when the pub gets busy. But Lenny has earned himself the nickname The Governor, as he likes to wander around greeting customers and supervising the staff behind the bar. (He even has his own Twitter account.) It’s not uncommon to find Lenny on the counter overseeing the ale taps.

Patches and Lenny hang out in the Pride of Spitalfields.
Patches and Lenny hang out in the Pride of Spitalfields.

5. The Blind Beggar, Whitechapel

This pub in the heart of London’s East End is famous for its resident felines, Edward and Henry, as well as its very colorful history. It was here that on March 9, 1966, gangster Ronnie Kray shot and murdered George Cornell, an associate of a rival gang, as he was sitting at the bar.

In 1865, Methodist preacher William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, preached his first open-air sermon outside the pub.

British pubs have wonderful beers and ales and a reputation for hearty food. Be sure to inquire about their specialties. Cheers!

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