Larry (cat)

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Larry
Larry Chief Mouser.jpg
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
Assumed office
15 February 2011
Serving with Freya (2012–2014)
Preceded by Sybil
Personal details
Residence 10 Downing Street
Occupation Mouser
Awards Blue plaque at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, 2012
Gender Male

Larry is the 10 Downing Street cat and is Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. Larry is a brown and white tabby, believed to have been born on 3rd January 2007. By July 2016, when Theresa May became Prime Minister, Larry had developed a reputation of being "violent" in his interactions with other local mousers, namely the Foreign Office's much younger cat Palmerston.[1]

Official duties[edit]

The Downing Street website describes Larry's duties as "greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences and testing antique furniture for napping quality". It also jokes that he is "contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house" and says that he has told Downing Street that such a solution is still in the "tactical planning stage".[2]

First year in Downing Street[edit]

10 Downing Street, Larry's official residence and place of work

Larry is a rescued stray cat from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home who was chosen by Downing Street staff.[3] He replaced the previous Downing Street cat Sybil, who died in 2009. Media speculation had raised the possibility of a new cat arriving in Downing Street after rats had been seen on two occasions behind television news correspondents reporting live, with a Downing Street "pro-cat faction" having apparently won the argument. The cat was also intended to be a pet for the children of David and Samantha Cameron.[4] After moving into Downing Street, Larry amde a bad first impression with the media as he took a swipe at ITV News reporter Lucy Manning whilst being required to pose for a news item.[5]

He has been described by Downing Street sources as a "good ratter" and as having "a high chase-drive and hunting instinct".[6] Soon after he was taken in at Downing Street, a story ran in the press claiming that Larry was a lost cat and that the original owner had started a campaign to retrieve him.[7][8] However, the story was later revealed to be a hoax, and no such owner nor campaign existed.[9] David Cameron has said that Larry is a "bit nervous" around men, speculating that, since Larry was a rescue cat, this may be due to negative experiences in his past. Cameron mentioned that US President Barack Obama is an apparent exception to this fear: he said, "Funnily enough he liked Obama. Obama gave him a stroke and he was all right with Obama."[10] Unlike his predecessors since 1929, Larry's upkeep is funded not by taxpayers but by the staff of 10 Downing Street.[11] Fund-raising events to pay for his food are believed to have included a quiz night for Downing Street staff held in the state rooms.[12] Larry's exploits and observations on life at Number 10 became the subject of a weekly cartoon in The Sunday Express drawn by cartoonist Ted Harrison.

After Larry had settled into Downing Street, attention to turned to Larry's progress in his day job: killing mice. Within a month of his arrival at Downing Street, it was reported that anonymous sources were already briefing against Larry, saying "there is a distinct lack of killer instinct."[13] A senior Downing Street spokesman said that it was too early to make judgments and that Larry had not yet been taken to visit his main work area in case he ran away.[13] Larry finally made his first kill – a mouse – on 22 April 2011.[14] Focus continued to Larry's performance, with focus on Larry attempts to swipe at a mouse, referred to as "Mandy", which then escaped under a bush.[15]

However, Larry could not shake of accusations of laziness. It was revealed that Larry was spending more time sleeping, and spending time in the company of a female cat, Maisie,[16] than actually hunting for mice. It emerged that the Prime Minister had resorted to throwing a fork at a mouse during a Cabinet dinner.[16] Larry courted further controversy by sleeping for several hours as the entire cabinet traipsed in and out of Downing Street for a meeting.[16] However, Larry's apparent laziness was subsequently favourably compared with rival Freya's enthusiasm for top secret places such as the command centre during a military exercise which led to possibly tongue-in-cheek allegations of "dastardly foreign espionage."[17] Larry had interest in sensitive areas of Downing Street himself, so Larry was banned from the Prime Minister's quarters in 10 Downing Street as his fur was ruining the Prime Minister's fresh suits.[5] Nevertheless, asked whether Larry should resign, the Prime Minister's spokesman said that "Larry brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people".[18]

Second year in Downing Street[edit]

Larry with Rt Hon David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Barack Obama, President of the United States.

On 15 February 2012, a party was held in Larry's honour to celebrate his first year in the office of Chief Mouser.[19] He has captured the hearts of the Great British public and the press teams often camped outside the front door. In turn the nation sends him gifts and treats daily."[20] Also, coinciding with his first anniversary, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home revealed that Larry's popularity had resulted in a surge of 15% more people adopting cats.[21]

On 24 April 2012, Larry returned to the news due to his antics while waiting to be admitted to 10 Downing Street,[22] and during the summer he was featured in the newspapers more than once, with photographs showing him sleeping.[23][24] Larry threw himself wholeheartedly into the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II,[25] taking a particular interest in the bunting decorating 10 Downing Street in June. On 24 June, George Osborne was reunited with his long lost cat Freya,[26][27] who moved into 11 Downing Street. Freya and Larry are reported to have rapidly established cordial relations.[26]

On 28 August 2012 Larry made his first killing of a mouse in public, dumping the corpse on the lawn in front of Number 10.[28] In the September 2012 cabinet reshuffle, it was reported that Larry had retained his position as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.[29] However, the reprieve seemed short-lived as Larry was reported to have been sacked and replaced by Freya,[30] but despite this on 26 September Larry took shelter from the autumnal storms in the door of 10 Downing Street.[31]

The confrontation with Freya over the prestigious chief mouser position came to a head in October as the two cats had a violent fight that had to be broken up by the police.[32] Freya was reported to be the more dominant cat and more effective mouser, reportedly because her days as a stray had "hardened" her.[33] However, the PM's spokeswoman insisted that the two tabbies were able to "co-exist".[34]

Third year in Downing Street[edit]

On 15 February 2013, Larry's birthday was celebrated. It was also announced that Larry is supporting London Zoo's campaign to support Sumatran tiger conservation, and was pictured with a tiger cat toy along with a birthday card from London Zoo.[35] A week later, a cat-proof barrier was erected to prevent Larry and his neighbour Freya from getting into the Foreign Office;[36] however, public pressure forced William Hague to order that the barrier be demolished.[36]

In June 2013 it was reported that Larry was considering running for London mayor.[37] In July 2013, Larry was prowling the streets and was hesitant to enter 10 Downing Street with David Cameron, so had to be coaxed in.[38]

In September 2013, tensions were reportedly growing between Cameron and Larry.[39] It was reported that Cameron objected to cat hair on his suit, and the smell of cat food had to be disguised by air freshener when Downing Street had visitors. The Camerons were said not to like Larry, amid suggestions that the pet was a public relations prop. Cameron posted to Twitter saying that he and Larry got on "purr-fectly well".[39] Nevertheless, bookmakers Ladbrokes made Cameron the odds-on (1/2) favourite to leave Downing Street first, with Larry as the 6/4 outsider. In October 2013 it was reported that government spin doctors were briefing against Larry, and that in fact Larry had caught four mice in two weeks and that one staff member had rescued a mouse from Larry's clutches.[40]

Fourth year in Downing Street[edit]

On 15 February 2014, Larry's birthday was celebrated. It was announced that neighbour George Osborne had brought in a pet dog, Lola, in a new power struggle at Downing Street. Aides announced that Lola got on well with both Larry and Freya, but briefed against Larry by saying that Freya "is just a bit more efficient than Larry when it comes to mouse-catching".[41] In March 2014, the Prime Minister was called to an emergency meeting about the Ukraine crisis, so Larry stood in and hosted[clarification needed] KM Group editorial apprentice Dan Wright in Downing Street.[42] It was also reported that Larry entered regular fights with Freya.[43] Following Larry's initial hosting success, he was enlisted to greet opponents of Lincolnshire County Council's decision to cut its library service.[44]

In May 2014, Larry continued to take on responsibilities for entertaining guests, as he proved to be a more popular host than David Cameron for a visiting party from King's School in Mannamead.[45] Later in May it was reported that Larry had re-established himself as the top cat on Downing Street, forcing Freya to flee temporarily, joining the ranks of the homeless.[46] Freya was later chauffeur driven home by a member of Osborne's staff the following day, carrying a request to the Chancellor not to cut homeless services further.[47] In the July 2014 cabinet reshuffle, Larry retained his position of Chief Mouser.[48] Later that week Larry was photographed relaxing in the sunshine during a heat wave.[49] The Downing Street friction between Larry and Freya came to the boil in August: after Freya was hit by a car and injured, Larry was reported "not to seem bothered".[50] In November 2014, Freya was permanently exiled from Downing Street, leaving Larry with the sole mousing responsibility.[51] In December 2014 Larry hosted a visit from patients of Great Ormond Street Hospital.[52] To mark the end of 2014 a series of photographs chronicling Larry's career in Downing Street was published.[53] In February 2015 Larry made his modelling debut as he featured on an artwork installed on the door of 10 Downing Street.[54][55]

Fifth year in Downing Street[edit]

Larry's birthday was celebrated on 15 February 2015. The next day Larry was back to work as he hosted a round table discussion of Caremakers.[56] Following the March murder of a dog at Crufts, David Cameron doubled security measures around Larry.[57] Later in the month Samantha Cameron had her face painted as Larry for Comic Relief.[58] On the first day of the general election campaign, Larry defended Downing Street from a police sniffer dog, Bailey.[59] With the General Election going on Larry undertook additional duties, helping out in foreign relations by sending President Obama's dog, Bo, a chew toy.[60] It was also reported that David Cameron's daughter, Florence, chases Larry around the house.[61] During the general election campaign, the Labour Party confirmed that in the event of Ed Miliband being the next Prime Minister that Larry would remain as Chief Mouser.[62]

European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) - one of Larry's territorial opponents.

On the day of the general election it was announced that Larry's seat on the cabinet was secure.[63] With the absence of a prime minister, Larry was forced to guard Downing Street from a fox.[64] Following this, Larry patiently waited for the other results of the general election to be announced.[65] Larry had to be dragged back into Number 10 by a police officer for the first cabinet meeting of the new Conservative government.[66] On 28 May Larry was criticised after he had failed to defend the home of the Prime Minister from an invading heron.[67] On 29 May it was reported that Larry had been given a crocheted blanket by a member of the public, in his thank you letter Larry sent a photo of himself relaxing on the blanket outside of 10 Downing Street.[68]

On 4 July a mouse ran across the sofa in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's office, sending one official screaming from the room. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock eventually cornered the mouse, trapping it in a brown paper sandwich bag. The incident increased pressure on Larry's chief mouser position as rumours spread that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take over the Chief Mouser position.[69] Just 4 days later Larry bounced back as the popular host to visitors from Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Primary School.[70] However, in August Larry again came under scrutiny as a staff member described Larry as "a real annoyance".[71] Larry blocked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from entering Number 10, so Larry had to be kicked into the doorway by a policeman.[72] In November Larry bounced back by inviting Sylvia Barry to Downing Street to thank her for crocheting a gift blanket.[73]

On 1 December 2015 Larry launched the "Text Santa appeal" with the help of Phillip Schofield.[74] After the extraordinary Saturday cabinet meeting to discuss the results of the EU renegotiation, Larry was seen taking an afternoon stroll to consider his official position on EU membership.[75] In late December former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, suggested that Larry should be asked to increase his responsibilities to include the Palace of Westminster, which at the time was being overrun by rodents.[76]

Sixth year in Downing Street[edit]

Larry's birthday was celebrated on 15 February 2016. A month later, Larry's importance to the UK was compared favourably to a team of dolphins being trained by the Russian Navy.[77] In April, Larry's poor mousing performance again came under scrutiny, and a new feline neighbour, Palmerston, moved into the Foreign Office on 13 April 2016.[78] Just a week later Palmerston made his first kill, a mouse, to place further pressure on Larry's Chief Mouser position.[79] During President Obama's April visit to the UK, Larry garnered many column inches in American news coverage.[80]

The Daily Telegraph suggested that Cameron never really liked cats but the spin doctors believed Larry could make the PM appear more friendly.[81] During David Cameron's final Prime Minister's Questions on 13 July 2016, the PM assured the House that Larry's role as Chief Mouser was secure even after the change of premier. Cameron explained that Larry was a civil servant and not personal property.[82] Cameron also produced a photograph of Larry sitting on the PM's lap[83] as evidence that he loves Larry and spoke of his "sadness" that he cannot take Larry with him.[84][85]

After the news that Theresa May would succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister in July 2016, Cabinet Office staff confirmed that Larry would continue to live at Downing Street and would remain Chief Mouser under the new Prime Minister.[86]

During May's cabinet re-shuffle, Larry's Chief Mouser position immediately came under pressure as he repeatedly squared up against Palmerston, mouser of the Foreign Office,[87] the two cats fighting on numerous occasions.[88] Larry's great public popularity caused a security scare in July when a pensioner sent him a bouquet of flowers on the day May was due to move into 10 Downing Street. Security staff initially refused to deliver the present, but relented when they satisfied themselves the gift was genuine.[89]

In July 2016, MP Ann Clwyd raised concerns about Larry's welfare. Clwyd said that Larry looked in a "very sorry situation" and had been seen limping and holding his front right paw in the air.[90] Other observers pointed out that Larry was also missing his collar.[91] Leader of the House David Lidington assured Clwyd of Theresa May's good intentions toward Larry.[92] It was suggested that Larry could have developed the limp following a fight with Palmerston who could have lost some fur in the incident,[93] however, a Downing Street spokesperson could not confirm how Larry developed the injury.[1] The Leader of the House commented that he hoped that Palmerston and Larry would establish a "modus vivendi".[94] Larry later received veterinary treatment for the injury, paid for by Downing Street staff, and was expected to make a full recovery.[92] After a couple of days of bed rest, Larry was back patrolling Downing Street.[88] However, there were concerns that Larry could be missing Cameron and be facing stress due to the May family moving in.[88] Despite these difficulties, Larry was given odds to outlast May at Downing Street.[95] On July 26, Palmerston illegally entered Number 10 and had to be forcibly evicted by security staff.[96]

On 29 July 2016, pressure on Larry increased significantly as a new Chief Mouser to the Treasury, Gladstone (previously known as "Timmy"), was appointed to help deal with the mouse problem in Downing Street.[97] The working relationship between Larry and Gladstone immediately soured as Gladstone was quoted as stating "The humans had to keep me in this cage in case I ran down the street and tormented some other mouser called 'Larry'."[98]

On 1 August 2016, according to the political photographer, Mr Beck, Larry had his "most brutal fight yet" with Palmerston on the steps of Number 10.[99] During the fight Larry lost his collar, whilst Palmerston suffered from several deep scratches and a badly cut ear.[99] Commentators observed that Larry was thrown on his back during the clash and so concluded that Palmerston ended the bout on top.[100] The fight had to be broken up by armed police.[99] On the same day it was reported that people were outraged that Larry had not been recognised in Cameron's Honours List. In particular, Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, commented "A lot of prime ministers have done dissolution honours in which they look after their friends, but Mr Cameron has gone well over the top ... I’m surprised Larry the cat didn’t get one".[101] Aggressive interactions between Larry and Palmerston increased in the frequency and severity of their violence and bystanders are being injured during attempts to separate the two. Independent advice from behavioural experts has been sought to reduce the intensity of the conflicts.[102] The Feline Welfare Specialist at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home advised that Larry and Palmerston have temporary restrictions on their outside access to reduce the risk of them meeting.[102] The next morning of 3rd August Larry was seen patrolling Downing Street, and Palmerston could not be seen; in the afternoon Larry did his rounds inside of 10 Downing Street, whilst Palmerston kept watch on the street outside.[102] After a month of being kept apart the pressure started to mount on Larry as Palmerston would lie in wait outside number 10 for his nemesis.[103] In early August, amid reports of continued vicious fighting between Larry and Palmerston, it emerged the Cabinet Office were considering also appointing another Chief Mouser to deal with their mouse problem. The Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, said that the cat would be called Cromwell.[96]

In September, for the first time in over a month, Palmerston and Larry both patrolled Downing Street at the same time. The tension between the two cats continued, with Larry usually hiding behind railings, and Palmerston sitting on the pavement. However, on 13 September Larry emerged from the railings, and had a tense stand-off with Palmerston outside Number 10.[104] In September Larry was issued with a new collar and bell, the Telegraph questioning whether this was done in an attempt to minimise damage to wildlife (noting that Larry had "started to show his savage side of late" and had been spotted with several kills), or to replace a collar possibly damaged in a fight with Palmerston.[105] Later in the month, Lord Blencathra, submitted a question in the House of Lords of why the government did not pay for Larry's veterinary bill for an injury picked up in a fight against Palmerston, and whether the government would refund civil servants who paid for Larry's care.[106] Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, the government’s spokesman in the Lords, said: "The costs were met by staff through voluntary staff donations due to their affection for Larry."

Awards and recognition[edit]

Larry was honoured with a blue plaque at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in October 2012.[107]

Popular culture[edit]

A book, written in character as Larry, Larry Diaries: Downing Street – the First 100 Days by former Guardian journalist James Robinson was published in 2011.[21] A picture gallery to celebrate Larry's first two years in office was produced by The Daily Telegraph.[108]

In 2012, Larry was visible on the Google Street View of Number 10, asleep next to the door.[109]

External links[edit]

See here[96] for a map indicating the residencies of the Chief Mousers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Video of meowing match between Larry and with Palmerston, the Foreign Office's cat

Vacant
Title last held by
Sybil
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
2011–present
With: Freya
2012–2014
Incumbent