Larry the Cat, a 4-yr-old grey and white tabby rescue, is now in residence at 10 Downing Street in London. His new furever home comes with an unofficial title: Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. Quite a step up for a street smart stray cat.
Last month there was rampant speculation that a mouser should be appointed for No. 10 after rats were seen scrambling in the background of live TV news reports from Downing Street on three separate occasions. (You can see for yourself in several YouTube videos, including this one.)
“Larry was a stray,” according to the official Downing Street briefing, “so he’s used to fending for himself in the streets.” It went on to say that he has “a very strong predatory drive.” Some observers wryly noted that he is clearly cut out for a career in politics.
Larry joins a long line of Downing Street Mousers. There has been a resident Treasury or Downing Street cat “employed” as a mouser and pet since the reign of Henry VIII.
The most famous in recent memory was Humphrey (photo above), who lived at the residence during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure and continued to rule the roost during John Major’s premiership. When Tony Blair came to power in 1997, Humphrey was “retired to the country,” reportedly due to a purrsonality conflict with Cherie Blair, who was rumored to dislike cats and to consider them unhygienic. Cat lovers’ tongues wagged that Humphrey had been executed for peeing on Blair’s carpets (which most cats will admit is the best course of action in dealing with a cat hater.)
The subsequent public outcry resulted in a staged photo opp with “Humphrey” and the Blairs, during which the Prime Minister was visibly uncomfortable, as was “Humphrey.” Astute cat lovers claimed that the markings of the cat in the photo opp were not the same as Humphrey’s, and rumors persist that the original Humphrey’s life came to a sudden and sad end at the hand of the Blairs.
Most recently, Chancellor Alistair Darling and his wife Margaret brought a cat named Sybil to live on Downing Street. Sybil’s reign was shortlived, however. She was ill-suited for the constant public attention and was rehomed about six months later in a quieter neighborhood. She died of an undisclosed illness in July 2009.
Other notable Downing Street mousers inlcude:
- Rufus of England: a.k.a. Treasury Bill, under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, circa 1924
- The Munich Mouser: under Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill until 1943
- Nelson: Churchill’s right-hand cat
- Wilberforce: employed to protect Edward Heath in 1970, he went on to serve under Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher
Here’s news coverage of Larry arriving at his new home:
In a reader? Click here to watch Larry’s arrival at 10 Downing Street.
Do you like to read about working cats? Check ’em all out here.