Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

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Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
since 15 February 2011
Government of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister's Office
Cabinet Office
Residence10 Downing Street
AppointerPrime Minister of the United Kingdom
Term lengthNo set length; ends on retirement or death
Inaugural holderCardinal Wolsey's cat
Formationc. 1515
Title first used around 1997[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office[a] is the title of the official resident cat at 10 Downing Street, the residence and executive office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in London. There has been a resident cat in the British government employed as a mouser and pet since the 16th century, although modern records date only to the 1920s. Despite other cats having served Downing Street, the first one to be given the official title of chief mouser by the British government was Larry in 2011. Other cats have been given this title affectionately, usually by the British press.

In 2004, a study found that voters' perceptions of the chief mouser were not completely above partisanship.


There is evidence of a cat in residence in the English government dating back to the reign of Henry VIII,[5] when Cardinal Thomas Wolsey placed his cat by his side while acting in his judicial capacity as Lord Chancellor.[6] Official records, however, 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,[7][8] when A.E. Banham at the Treasury authorised the Office Keeper "to spend 1d[b] a day from petty cash towards the maintenance of an efficient cat".[9] In April 1932, the weekly allowance was increased to 1s 6d.[c] By the 21st century, the mouser was costing £100 per annum.[10] The cats do not necessarily belong to the prime minister in residence, and it is rare for the chief mouser's term of office to coincide with that of a prime minister.[11] The cat with the longest known tenure at Downing Street is Peter III, who served for over 16 years under five different prime ministers: Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home.[7]

The post has been held by Larry since 2011,[12] the first to be given the title officially.[1][13] The departure of the previous 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.[14][15] It was reported that Sybil did not stay in London, and was returned to Scotland to live with a friend of the Darlings. Sybil died on 27 July 2009.[16][17]

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.[18] 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;[19] 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 might indeed be brought in to deal with the problem.[19] On 14 February 2011, it was reported that a cat called "Larry" had been brought in to address the problem.[20] The London Evening Standard reported that the cat had been selected by David Cameron and his family, from those at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.[20]

Chief mousers in the past have overlapped, or been phased in, though the position can and has remained vacant for extended periods of time. Larry is the only chief mouser listed on the official website for Number 10.[13]

Partisanship study[edit]

In 2004, Robert Ford, a political scientist at the University of Manchester, reported on a YouGov survey on partisan reactions to the Downing Street cats. Participants in the survey were shown a picture of Humphrey, the chief mouser appointed by Margaret Thatcher, and told that he was either Thatcher's cat or Tony Blair's cat. Affinity for the cat divided along partisan lines: Conservative voters liked the cat far more when they were told he was Thatcher's and Labour voters liked the cat far more when they were told he was Blair's. Ford concludes that partisanship shapes reactions to everything a politician does, however trivial, similar to the halo effect (and a reverse "forked tail effect") observed by psychologists.[21]

List of chief mousers[edit]

Larry in 2011 with Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama
Name Began tenure Ended tenure Prime Minister(s) Refs
Rufus of England (popularly nicknamed "Treasury Bill")[22][23] 1924 c. 1930[23] Ramsay MacDonald [24]
Peter 1929[d] 1946[7] Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee [7][11]
Munich Mouser 1937–40 1943 Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill [25][26]
Nelson 1940s Winston Churchill [26][27]
Peter II 1946 1947 Clement Attlee [7]
Peter III 1947 1964 Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home [7]
Peta 1964 c. 1976 Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath [7]
Wilberforce 1973 1987 Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher [28][29]
Humphrey 1989 1997 Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair [30]
Sybil 2007 2009 Gordon Brown [15][16][31]
Larry 2011 current David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak [32]
Freya 2012 2014 David Cameron [33]


Freya (cat)Larry (cat)Sybil (cat)Humphrey (cat)Wilberforce (cat)Peta (cat)Peter III (cat)Peter II (cat)Nelson (cat)Munich MouserPeter (chief mouser)Treasury Bill (cat)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Formerly Home Office cat.[2][3][4]
  2. ^ 1 penny, worth £0.27 in 2021.
  3. ^ 1 shilling and six pence, worth £5.54 in 2021.
  4. ^ According to the Sunday Mail article Treasury Bill/Rufus (Peter's predecessor) was apparently still on duty in 1930.


  1. ^ a b "Purr-fect ending fur Humphrey!". BBC News. 25 November 1997. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Home Office cat history revealed". BBC News. 4 January 2005. Archived from the original on 4 April 2023. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  3. ^ "100 p.c. income rise for Home Office cat—and it's official". Liverpool Daily Post. 6 May 1964. p. 6. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  4. ^ "No mice attend: British bury 'Home Office' cat". The Decatur Daily Review. Associated Press. 14 March 1964. p. 8. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Van Vechten, Carl (1922). "The Cat and the Law". The Tiger in the House. Alfred A. Knopf – via
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Home Office cat history revealed". BBC News. 4 January 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  8. ^ "The official Home Office cat". The National Archives. 1929–1976. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  9. ^ "Tale of Home Office cat". Metro. Associated Newspapers. 4 January 2005. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  10. ^ Millward, David (15 March 2005). "Humphrey... the Downing Street dossier". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 17 March 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  11. ^ a b 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.
  12. ^ Kraemer, Daniel; Sleator, Laurence (24 July 2019). "The new PM's first job: Impress the cat". BBC. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office". 10 Downing Street. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  14. ^ "No. 10 has its first cat since Humphrey". Reuters. 12 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  15. ^ a b Nick, Assinder (12 September 2007). "No 10 gets new feline first lady". BBC News. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  16. ^ a b Crichton, Torcuil (29 July 2009). "Darling's cat Sybil dies after a short illness". The Herald. Archived from the original on 2 August 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  17. ^ McSmith, Andy (29 July 2009). "Farewell to the original New Labour cat". The Independent. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Another rat spotted on steps of Number 10". ITN. MSN. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  19. ^ a b ""Pro-cat faction" urges Downing Street rat rethink". BBC News. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  20. ^ a b Woodhouse, Craig (14 February 2011). "Larry the tabby lands No10 job as rat catcher". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  21. ^ Ford, Robert (2004). "Of mousers and men: how politics colours everything we see". Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need To Know About British Elections. London: Biteback Publishing. ISBN 1849548250.
  22. ^ "Larry the cat joins David Cameron in Downing Street". 15 February 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2019. During the 1920s, Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's cat - a renowned rat-catcher - had the rather regal title of Rufus of England, but was nicknamed "Treasury Bill".
  23. ^ a b "The Cat that Looked at a Chancellor". National Library of Australia. Sunday Mail (Adelaide). 5 July 1930. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  24. ^ Campbell, Mel (19 May 2010). "'Miaow, Prime Minister': the bureaucats of Downing Street". Crikey. Retrieved 25 January 2011.(subscription required)
  25. ^ Irving, David (2001). Churchill's War Volume II: Triumph in Adversity. Focal Point Publications. p. 833. ISBN 1-872197-15-9.
  26. ^ a b "Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas". Finest Hour. The Churchill Centre (110). Spring 2001.
  27. ^ "Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas". Finest Hour. The Churchill Centre (109). Winter 2000–2001.
  28. ^ Roberts, Patrick. "Wilberforce". Purr 'n' Fur: Famous Felines. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  29. ^ Associated Press (20 May 1988). "Wilberforce the Cat, Mouser to 4 British Leaders, Dead at 15". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  30. ^ "Humphrey the Cat" (PDF). Cabinet Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  31. ^ "Morning press briefing from 11 September 2007". 10 Downing Street, Government of the United Kingdom. 11 September 2007. Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  32. ^ "History of 10 Downing Street". UK. Archived from the original on 1 September 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  33. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (9 November 2014). "George Osborne's family cat Freya sent away from Downing Street to Kent". The Independent. Retrieved 7 February 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]