Wilberforce (cat)

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Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
In office
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Harold Wilson
Jim Callaghan
Margaret Thatcher
Preceded byPeta (cat)
Succeeded byHumphrey (cat)
Personal details
Bornsometime around 1973
DiedMay 18, 1988 (aged 14 or 15)
Residence10 Downing Street

Wilberforce was a cat who lived at 10 Downing Street between 1973 and 1986 and served under four British Prime Ministers: Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher.[1] His chief function was to catch mice, in which role he was the successor to Peta. In life he had been referred to as "the best mouser in Britain", as befitted his role.[2]

History and career[edit]

Wilberforce was still a kitten when he was adopted from the Hounslow branch of the RSPCA in 1973. This was while Edward Heath was Prime Minister. He was appointed the Office Manager's cat, with a living allowance for his care. The black-and-white cat turned out to be a very good mouser. The policeman on security duty at the front door of Number 10 had instructions to ring the bell for Wilberforce whenever he wanted to come indoors.

According to Bernard Ingham, the former press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, Wilberforce was a normal cat for whom Thatcher once bought "a tin of sardines in a Moscow supermarket".[3] Ingham was allergic to cats and did his best to avoid Wilberforce. "Bloody Wilberforce used to sit under my desk and I would have a fit of sneezing. I hate cats", he said.[4]

On the BBC coverage of the 1983 general election, presenter Esther Rantzen was allowed to hold Wilberforce and introduce him to viewers.

Wilberforce retired in 1986, after 13 years of loyal service. He went to live with a retired caretaker from No. 10 in the country. He died in his sleep on 19 May 1988.[5]


  1. ^ Morris, Nigel (12 September 2007). "Introducing Sybil, Downing Street's first cat for a decade". The Independent. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Alas, Great Britain's 'best mouser' dead". USA Today. 20 May 1988. Retrieved 18 February 2016.[dead link]
  3. ^ Choron, Sandra; Choron, Harry; Moore, Arden (2007). Planet Cat: A Cat-Alog. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 126. ISBN 0618812598.
  4. ^ "A purrfect new pal for Mrs Thatcher". Daily Mail. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Wilberforce the Cat, Mouser to 4 British Leaders, Dead at 15". Los Angeles Times. London. 20 May 1988. Retrieved 18 March 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
Succeeded by