A new Chief Mouser on Downing Street

February 16, 2011 • 11:38 am

Brits, rest easy: after a three-year hiatus, you have a new Chief Mouser at 10 Downing Street.

It’s not widely appreciated that, since 1924, the resident cat at the Prime Minister’s house has held the unofficial title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.  According to Wikipedia, there have been eleven of these kittehs since “Treasury Bill” took up the post under Ramsay MacDonald.  Other Chief Mousers have included Munich Mouser, Nelson, Peta, Wilberforce, Sybil, and the famous Humphrey, who served under Thatcher, Major, and Blair, and famously went missing for a while.

Between 2008 and now there was no Chief Mouser, but, as Wikipedia reports:

In January 2011, rats were seen in Downing Street, “scurrying across the steps of number 10 Downing Street for the second time during a TV news report”, according to ITN. There being no incumbent Chief Mouser at that time, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said that there were “no plans” for a cat to be brought in to tackle the problem; however the following day newspapers reported that the spokesman had said there was a “pro-cat faction” within Downing Street, leading to speculation that a replacement may indeed be brought in to deal with the problem. On 14 February 2011, it was reported that a cat called “Larry” had been brought in to address the problem. The Evening Standard reported that the cat had been selected by David Cameron and his family, from those at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Good on Cameron to select a stray for the job!

Here’s Larry arriving at Downing Street on Monday:

Larry inspects his new quarters:

The regal Chief Mouser—from rags to riches.

You can see more photos of Larry here.

h/t: Michael F.

UPDATE:  Coincidentally, I just received this stuffed kitteh from an alert and generous reader.  The cat’s name is Bentley, and he greatly resembles Larry:

31 thoughts on “A new Chief Mouser on Downing Street

    1. Actually I think it will suit his image fairly well. I expect an address to the nation any day now where he’s sitting in a high-backed chair & stroking the cat.

  1. I always thought rats are not quite to the common feline’s taste. At least the cats I had only liked mice, and even thereof just a certain type, I think it’s called house mouse, at least in german it is.
    Maybe central european rats are not as yummy as british ones.

    1. Isn’t the idea that the smell of a predator might deter the rat? As it is, there is a saying that in London you are never more than three feet from a rat or an Australian…!

    2. I recently discovered that I have a rat who seems to have been living very comfortably in my basement for some time, despite sharing a home with 3 cats. Even worse, in trying to figure out what the darn thing has been eating for so long (it definitely hasn’t been in my pantry at the top of the basement stairs), it appears that it’s been hoarding little kitty tootsie rolls from the litter boxes (the wheat litter probably lends a satisfying crunch).

      So, yeah, in my experience cats don’t seem to be terribly interested in rats. Maybe they’re too big and nasty?

      1. The rats around here are not that big, not enough to scare a cat at least. I always assumed tastiness was the problem. It’s the same with moles or other little creatures which live in garden, never saw a cat eat one of those.

  2. I am not sure that cats really tackle rats much. Terriers like the Jack Russell are bred for that, I believe. I don’t know how cats regard the taste of rat, but voles apparently taste disgusting and foxes avoid them–at least after the first one. I am not suggesting that Downing Street should have acquired a terrier. They may be cute, but you can’t beat a cat!

  3. Had a cat, once, who was quite the mighty hunter. Brought home everything, including small rats, through the cat door. AFAIK, he didn’t eat the rats.

    Having been owned by many cats, my observation is a cat’s prey selection is a combination of innate ability, prey availability,instruction examples(mom and other cats), age at which the cat is shown how and what to hunt, and personal experience. Said cat hearted teh skwerlz so much he never brought them home to show, just nommed them in privacy. There was a squirrel tail/single back leg graveyard next to the front door.

    He was a real sweetheart, too.

  4. These people have the wrong animal, what they need is Larry A. Bear, former interglatic mauler who made Mike Reno stop wearing leather pants! Then there’d be no rats from St. Paul’s to Chelsea.
    (Besides the conservatives, that is.)

  5. I had a cat that caught and ate rats, only the pointy, crunchy end though, so I’d find the back end of a rat lying on the garden path with the tail still conveniently attached for disposal purposes. They were on the small side for rats though, maybe not fully grown. None of my other cats has ever caught a rat that I knew of.

  6. From my experience the best mousers are females with kittens to feed and train. My best mouser was a stunted (3/4 sized) solid black female named Raisin. She was also the only cat I’ve ever seen that could send mongooses into retreat.

  7. Three cats in my house, but still mice.

    Occasionally they snag one … the cat who’s good buddies with the dog left one by the dog’s dish once.

  8. I have a bad conscience about my posting at #8. It’s not voles that taste terrible, but shrews. No, I do not speak from personal experience, but from a half-remembered nature program on BBC radio 4. I hope I have not inadvertently put a new urban myth into circulation.

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