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UK's chief mouser celebrates 10 years on the prowl

2021 Feb 15, 16:44, LONDON
In this Thursday, May 21, 2020 file photo, Larry, the official 10 Downing Street cat walks outside 10 Downing Street before the nationwide Clap for Carers to recognise and support National Health Service workers and carers fighting the coronavirus pandemic, in London. Monday, February 15, 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of rescue cat Larry becoming Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office in a bid to deal with a rat problem at 10 Downing Street. (Photo via AP)

Larry the cat, a four-legged inhabitant of London’s 10 Downing St, is marking a decade as Britain’s mouse-catcher in chief on Monday.

The tabby cat was recruited by then-Prime Minister David Cameron to deal with a pack of rats seen scuttling close to the British leader’s official residence, and entered Downing Street on February 15, 2011.

The former stray, adopted from London’s Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, was given the title Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, an unofficial pest control post. He was the first cat to hold the rat-catching portfolio since the retirement of Humphrey in 1997, and has loyally served three prime ministers.

But it seems like yesterday that Larry was just another cat — as opposed to a media superstar — said Lindsey Quinlan, the head of cattery of Battersea.

“Throughout his time at Number 10, Larry has proven himself to not only be a brilliant ambassador for Battersea but also demonstrated to millions of people around the world how incredible rescue cats are," she said. “His rags to riches tale is yet more proof of why all animals deserve a second chance — one minute they may be an overlooked stray on the streets, the next they could become one of the nation’s beloved political figures, with fans around the world.”

Larry, who has met a number of world leaders, has been largely unfriendly to men but took a liking to former US President Barack Obama. When former President Donald Trump visited in 2019, Larry took a nap under his car.

His grip on the public imagination is clear — and political leaders know better than to ignore that popularity. The tomcat was a sentimental topic of conversation in Cameron’s final appearance in Parliament as prime minister when he said he wanted to quash a rumor that — perish the thought — he didn’t like Larry.

And just to prove it, he whipped out evidence: a picture of Larry lying on his lap.

“He belongs to the house and the staff love him very much — as do I,” he said at the time, explaining why he wasn't taking Larry with him after leaving office.

After the December 2019 election, rumors swirled that Larry might be headed for retirement with the news that the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, was a dog man. However, despite the prime minister moving Jack Russell cross Dilyn into Downing Street, Larry remained in office.

Reports of his rodent-killing abilities vary. Larry became known for his occasional scraps with neighboring cats — especially Palmerston, chief mouser to the Foreign Office across the street — and fondness for sleep. Palmerston has retired to the country, so things have been a bit quieter of late.

These days Larry, now 14, is often seen by photographers patrolling his turf. Visitors to the building can sometimes find him napping on a ledge above a radiator or sleeping on a floor, where dignitaries occasionally have to step over him.

At the heart of government, he specializes in power naps.

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