Happy as Larry: new Downing St cat to fight rats

15th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the newest recruit to 10 Downing Street Tuesday: a cat called Larry with a "very strong predatory drive" for catching rodents.

The four-year-old tabby joined Cameron and his family from London's Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to tackle pest control issues after a rodent was spotted on the steps of the most famous front door in the land.

Just last month the British government said there were no plans to bring in a new cat, but the prime minister's official spokesman said Tuesday that Cameron had "certainly been persuaded that it was a good idea".

"Whilst in Battersea's care, Larry showed a very strong predatory drive and enjoyed playing with toy mice," the spokesman said.

"Before coming to Battersea, Larry was a stray so he was used to fending for himself in the streets.

"Nothing is ever guaranteed but his behaviour at Battersea convinced staff that he'll be up for the job of ratting."

Larry's appointment comes after a rat was spotted in two television news bulletins scurrying around outside the black door of the prime minister's residence in central London.

There has been no Downing Street cat since Sybil, who moved in with then finance minister Alistair Darling in 2007 but returned to Edinburgh after six months, having failed to settle in central London.

Sybil was the first cat to live in the street since the legendary Humphrey, a stray who took up residence under prime minister Margaret Thatcher and outstayed John Major.

Tony Blair sent Humphrey into retirement in 1997 amid persistent speculation that his wife Cherie forced him out.

Humphrey was on the payroll, receiving 100 pounds (160 dollars, 117 euros) a year from the Cabinet Office budget.

But with Cameron's coalition government facing public anger over sweeping cuts to public services, there was no immediate word on where funding for Larry would come from.

© 2011 AFP

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