Political Pets: Larry the Downing Street Cat

Now, the last thing I want to do is get into politics on my blog, it’s really not my area of specialism (I’d much rather stick to animals!), but I couldn’t help but pass comment on all the comings and goings at Westminster of late. It’s fair to stay that the famous black front door of No.10 has somewhat resembled a revolving door recently, with three different Prime Ministers residing there within just a few short months. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime and I’m sure we can all safely say that we never wish to again. However, as always in times of turmoil and uncertainty, we can always rely on pets! One member of the household is a firm fixture … and that’s good old reliable Larry, the Downing Street cat! Larry has been in residence at Number 10 since 15th February 2011. He was rescued from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home where he was recommended for his mousing skills – a skill he honed during his time as a stray. His official role is as ‘Chief Mouser’ at Number 10 and, in 2016, David Cameron (the then Prime Minister) explained during PMQs that Larry is not owned by any one individual but is actually a Civil Servant and, as such, is there to serve whichever political party is in place. He resides at Number 10 and is cared for by the Downing Street staff, who are very fond of the famous feline.

The 15-year-old tabby has certainly managed a longer stint than any of our recent Prime Ministers, and has in fact now served under 5 different holders of the top job – David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and now Rishi Sunak. I hope they’ve all learned Larry’s ways as we all know it can take a while to get to know a cat’s likes and dislikes! Which is his favourite food? Does he like to have his ears rubbed? Which chair is CATegorically not for humans to sit on?! There’s one thing for sure, whoever’s currently in charge of the country, I can bet they’re not ‘top cat’ at home … that position will definitely be reserved for Larry! The gov.uk website explains that ‘Larry spends his days greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences and testing antique furniture for napping quality. His day-to-day responsibilities also include contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house. Larry says this is still ‘in tactical planning stage’

Over his years of service at No.10, Larry has met many important people including various world leaders. I very much doubt he’ll have been at all fazed by these experiences and in true cat style, no matter how powerful they may be, they’ll very much be made to understand that they’re guests in HIS house! In June 2019 Larry was seen chilling out under the then US President Donald Trump’s armoured Cadillac (known as ‘The Beast’) where he’s said to have briefly disrupted the President’s schedule by refusing to move. After all his years on Downing Street Larry clearly knows how to make a political stand!

Larry is certainly not the first cat to live (and work!) at 10 Downing Street. According to the website pur-n-fur.org.uk in recent history there has been Nemo, who moved in when Harold Wilson came to power in 1964, Wilberforce who arrived from the RSPCA under Edward Heath’s tenure in 1973, and Humphrey the stray who was found by a member of the Cabinet Office staff and came to live with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1989. Humphrey retired to the countryside in 1997 then, after 10 cat-less years at No.10, Sybil took up residence in 2007 having been brought down from Scotland by then-Chancellor Alastair Darling. However, she craved a quiet life and moved out to live with the Darling’s friends in the countryside just 6-months later. Can’t say I blame her. Larry was the next cat to move in 4 years later and it seems like he very much enjoys his home, his important role, and the limelight. There are countless photos of Larry relaxing in and around Downing Street – he’s a firm favourite with the paparazzi!

Now that Rishi Sunak has moved in, Larry is having to share his home with Nova, Rishi’s red fox Labrador. I hope that Nova isn’t too reminiscent of a red fox though, because in a now famous video, fearless Larry was filmed chasing a fox away from ‘his’ street just over a week before Mr Sunak landed the job! With any luck, Nova will have made a better first impression.

Larry’s unofficial Twitter account (categorically NOT run by the Government) has racked up an astonishing 800k followers and many people even supported a tongue-in-cheek #Larry4Leader campaign when billboards appeared across the UK suggesting the cat had ‘thrown his collar into the ring’ in the race for PM. I’m not sure it’s come to that quite yet, but it’s clear that the tenacious tabby has certainly won a lot of hearts all over the world … something that a succession of politicians have failed to do recently!