Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Arms of Her Majesty's Government
Residence Downing Street
London, England, UK
Appointer Various government officials
Term length No set length. May end upon retirement or upon the death of the cat.
Inaugural holder Unknown
Formation Early 1500s

The Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office is the unofficial title of the official resident cat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street. Only one cat, Humphrey, was given the title officially;[1] the other cats are given this title affectionately, usually by the British press. There has been a resident Treasury or Downing Street cat "employed" as a mouser and pet since the reign of Henry VIII [2] when Cardinal Wolsey placed his cat by his side while acting in his judicial capacity as Lord Chancellor.[3] Official records released into the public domain on 4 January 2005 as part of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 only date back to 3 June 1929,[4][5] when AE Banham at the Treasury authorised the Office Keeper "to spend 1d a day from petty cash towards the maintenance of an efficient cat".[6] In April 1932 the weekly allowance was increased to 1s 6d. By the 21st century, the mouser was costing £100 per annum.[7]

Since the cats are viewed as civil servants,[8] they do not belong to the Prime Minister in residence and it is rare for the Chief Mouser's "term of office" to coincide with that of the Prime Minister. The cat with the longest tenure at Downing Street is Wilberforce, who served under Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. The post is currently held by Larry, since 14 February 2011. The departure of the last incumbent, Sybil, was in January 2009. Sybil, who began her tenure on 11 September 2007, was the first mouser for ten years following the retirement of her predecessor Humphrey in 1997. Sybil was owned by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who lived in 10 Downing Street while the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, lived in the larger 11 Downing Street.[9][10] It was reported that she did not settle in London, and returned to Scotland to live with a friend of the Darlings.[11] Sybil died on 27 July 2009.[12][13]

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.[14] There being no incumbent Chief Mouser at that time, the Prime Minister's spokesman said there were "no plans" for a cat to be brought in to tackle the problem;[15] 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.[15] On 14 February 2011 it was reported that a cat called "Larry" had been brought in to address the problem.[16] The Evening Standard reported that the cat had been selected by David Cameron and his family, from those at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.[16]


List of cats

Name Began tenure Ended tenure Prime Minister(s) Refs
Treasury Bill 1924 Ramsay MacDonald [17]
Peter fl. 1929 1946 Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee [4]
Munich Mouser 1937–1940 1943 Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill [18][19]
Nelson 1940s Winston Churchill [19][20]
Peter II 1946 Clement Attlee [4]
Peter III 1946 1964 Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home [4]
Petra 1964 ca. 1976 Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath [4]
Wilberforce 1970 1988 Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher [21]
Humphrey 1989 1997 Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair [22]
Sybil 2007 2008 Gordon Brown [23]
Larry 2011 current David Cameron [16]

See also


  1. ^ "Purr-fect ending fur Humphrey!". BBC News. 25 November 1997. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Davies, Caroline (24 November 1997). "More questions over how No 10 handled the kitty". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Chapter Six. The Cat and the Law. Van Vechten, Carl. 1922. The Tiger in the House". Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Home Office cat history revealed". BBC News. 4 January 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "The official Home Office cat". HM Government. The National Archives. 1929–1976. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Tale of Home Office cat". Metro (Associated Newspapers). 4 January 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Millward, David (15 March 2005). "Humphrey... the Downing Street dossier". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Fenton, Ben (4 January 2005). "Cats that left a mark in the corridors of power". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 May 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "No. 10 has its first cat since Humphrey". Reuters. 12 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Nick, Assinder (12 September 2007). "No 10 gets new feline first lady". BBC News. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "A Country Life for the No. 10 Cat". The Daily Mail. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Crichton, Torcuil (29 July 2009). "Darling’s cat Sybil dies after a short illness". The Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  13. ^ McSmith, Andy (29 July 2009). "Farewell to the original New Labour cat". The Independent. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "Another rat spotted on steps of Number 10". ITN (MSN). 24 January 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  15. ^ a b ""Pro-cat faction" urges Downing Street rat rethink". BBC News. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c Woodhouse, Craig (14 February 2011). "Larry the tabby lands No10 job as rat catcher". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  17. ^ Campbell, Mel (19 May 2010). "‘Miaow, Prime Minister’: the bureaucats of Downing Street". Crikey. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  18. ^ Irving, David (2001). Churchill's War Volume II: Triumph in Adversity. Focal Point Publications. p. 833. ISBN 1-872-19715-9. 
  19. ^ a b "Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas". Finest Hour (The Churchill Centre) (110). Spring 2001. 
  20. ^ "Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas". Finest Hour (The Churchill Centre) (109). Winter 2000–2001. 
  21. ^ Merrick, Jane (11 September 2007). "Ten years after the Humphrey hoo-ha, a cat returns to Downing Street". The Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers). Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  22. ^ "Humphrey the Cat" (PDF). HM Government. Cabinet Office. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  23. ^ "Morning press briefing from 11 September 2007". 10 Downing Street. HM Government. 11 September 2007. Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 

Further reading

External links

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