Happy as Larry: New Downing St. Cat to Fight Rats
LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the newest recruit to 10 Downing Street Tuesday: a rat-catching feline called Larry with a "very strong predatory drive".
The four-year-old tabby, a former stray, has joined Cameron and his family to take command of pest control issues after a rodent was spotted on the steps of the most famous front door in the land.
"I'm delighted to welcome Larry to his new home. He came highly recommended to me by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who did a fantastic job looking after him," Cameron said in a statement.
"I'm sure he will be a great addition to Downing Street and will charm our many visitors."
The prime minister's official spokesman said staff members had chosen Larry but Cameron's young children had given him their approval, and the cat would now have run of most of the house.
Larry was also well-qualified for the job, the spokesman said.
"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 behavior at Battersea convinced staff that he'll be up for the job of ratting."
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said Larry was the "unanimous" choice of Downing Street staffers, who picked him because he was "very sociable" in addition to his apparent rat-catching skills.
"There are usually tell-tale signs of the hunter instinct from a previous life in some cats and even in the cattery Larry showed those signs," Battersea rehomer SuiLi Stenhouse said.
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 whether funding for Larry would come from the Downing Street kitty.
Image: robertsharp / via Flickr