Cats can make pretty much everything at least a little better. They can suddenly transform the most nondescript card-clawed box into apparatus of great intrigue and wonder. Moggies are even used as public purr-ception tools by politicians! No.10 Downing Street and the Treasury have been home to a host of cats since the 16th century. In more recent years, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office has even been made an official titled position in Westminster! Few topics divide opinion quite like politics and politicians, but at least the Chief Mouser is one government official we can all feel paw-sitive about.
Read on for the low-down on some of the most famous felines to have roamed the government buildings over the last century.
Treasury Bill, 1924-29
Bill was one purr-suasive cat. Initially known as Rufus of England, his more famous name was won by apparently charming Chancellor Philip Snowden into demanding a vote on the moggy’s food allowance getting bumped up by 50%. Parliament gave the bill the thumbs up, so the cat formerly known as Rufus got his pay and a new name.
Munich Mouser (1937-40) and Nelson (1940s)
At the start of the Second World War, known feline aficionado Sir Winston Churchill reportedly dubbed the incumbent cat as the “Munich Mouser”, believed to be a quip at the expense of his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. However, the Munich Mouser was soon chased out of No.10 in 1940 by the new Prime Minister’s all-black mog called Nelson. Churchill first noticed Nelson when the former stray scared off a big dog. He certainly wasn’t a scaredy-cat!
Few cats have enjoyed such extended spells in Downing Street as Wilberforce. A black and white tomcat, he took charge of pest control for no fewer than four Prime Ministers; Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. He was even dubbed “the best mouser in Britain”! A big claim indeed.
According to legend, Humphrey was regarded as being much better (and significantly cheaper!) than Downing Street’s employed pest controller. But he was also said to have caused plenty of fuss! The black and white feline was once accused – and eventually exonerated – of destroying a nest of robins, he vanished briefly in 1995 and moved on to pastures new two years later, with media reports suggesting it was because of the Blairs’ apparent aversion to cats. However, kidney problems were the official reason given for his retirement.
An elegant brown and white tabby, Larry has split opinion since taking over as Chief Mouser. His hunting techniques have been called into question more than once, however he did – according to David Cameron – take a liking to Barack Obama, despite his apparent unease around men. More recently he has been in the media spotlight after public brawls with the Foreign Office’s cat, Palmerston.
Fluffy tabby Freya is the family cat of George Osbourne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer. She is something of a miracle cat, too. Freya disappeared in 2009 when she was only a couple of months old, before then being identified and brought back in 2012. Further to that, not long prior to her retirement to the Kent countryside in 2014, she survived getting hit by a car on International Cat Day. So she’s got eight lives left!
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