Queen Elizabeth II of England loves her corgis. She’s had 30 of them over the course of her long life. Recently, Meghan Markle’s dog, Guy, made news by accompanying the Queen in her car to the Royal Wedding. The Royal Family, it seems, is all about the dogs.
But what about the other arm of the British government? Has Parliament also gone to the dogs? As it turns out, it’s a cat’s life at Number 10 Downing Street. In fact, there has been a cat at Number 10 since 1929. At present, there are six cats in various branches of the UK government. And they don’t always get along.
Meet the players.
Larry, the Chief Mouser
11-year-old Larry is the Official Chief Mouser of Number 10 Downing Street. His other duties include greeting guests, inspecting security defenses, and testing antique furniture for napability.
The Staff at Number 10 originally adopted Larry from the Battersea Dog and Cat Home. He was to be a pet for former Prime Minister David Cameron’s children. However, Larry was destined for greater things. One government source described him as being “a good ratter” and having “a high chase-drive and hunting instinct.” So Larry was made the Mouser in Chief.
Reports say that Larry is wary of men. However, it has also been reported that he made an exception for former U.S. President Barack Obama.
You can follow Larry on his Instagram: Larrythecatnumber10.
Freya, the Understudy
Image: CC BY-SA 4.0, by Phillipa Rudkin, via Wikimedia Commons
For a while, a young lady named Freya shared Larry’s workload. Freya belongs to conservative Member of Parliament George Osborne. Sources say Freya was lost for a while but returned to Number 11 after Larry had assumed his post. It took a bit of time for them to come to an understanding. Larry might have been jealous that many considered Freya the better mouser. However, ultimately, they became fast friends.
One of their favorite activities was sneaking into the Foreign Office together. Complaints from Foreign Office allergy sufferers resulted in special anti-cat barriers to keep the pair out.
Palmerston, Mouser in Chief of the Foreign Office
Image: CC 2.0, by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, via Wikimedia Commons
Palmerston is the Mouser in Chief for the Foreign Office. He is also Larry’s arch-nemesis. Their catfights are legendary. By some reports, Palmerston started it, by barging into Larry’s territory the minute he arrived on the scene. Another time, after Palmerston picked a fight with Larry, the question of who would pay Larry’s veterinary bills even came up in the House of Lords. After one fight, Larry was left limping badly.
For a while, some speculated that Palmerston would win the battle and push Larry out. However, Larry got his own back on August 1, 2016, when he managed to savage Palmerston in a fight, while only losing his collar.
Things seem to have been quiet between the two for a while. The staff has kept both cats inside their respective domains and even introduced a couple of dogs. And this seems to have cooled things off.
If you want to keep up with Palmerston’s side of the story, you can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DiploMog
Gladstone, Chief Mouser of Her Majesty’s Treasury
Gladstone is the UK government’s third Chief Mouser. He started his work at the treasury in June 2016. Although all the cabinet cats are much loved by their respective staffs, their position is a real one. Mice and rats continue to be a problem in the cabinet offices. Of the three Official Mousers, Gladstone appears to be the best. Some describe him as “a cold-blooded killer.” He made his first catch within 48 hours of starting his job. And in the first three months of his employ, he racked up six confirmed kills.
Like Larry, Gladstone hails from the Battersea Dog and Cat Home. He is also a former stray.
You can follow Gladstone on his Instagram.
Evie and Ossie, Cabinet Office Cats
Evie and her daughter Ossie, two black and white cats, work as Chief Mousers for the Cabinet Office. Evie’s name comes from Dame Evelyn Sharp, the first female permanent secretary. Ossie is named for Sir Edward Osmotherly, author of the guide to giving evidence that civil servants use. Evie and Ossie hail from the Celia Hammond Animal Trust.
Ossie is a poet:
I’m floofy & a bit boozey.
Palmerstone gets in fights, beware of his bites!
Gladstone is on a diet & he is NEVER quiet.
Evie is my mummy, but we aren’t very chummy.
Larry has lots of power & makes politicians cower.
We are the government cats & are government’s true diplomats!
You can follow their exploits on Twitter.
Every dog may have its day at Buckingham Palace. And a cat may indeed see a king. But when it comes to Parliament, the Downing Street buildings appear to be the cat’s meow. Even if sometimes they may fight like, well, cats and dogs.
Featured Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, by Mitch Barrie, via Flickr
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