Larry the cat, Downing Street's furry friend, is still watching premiers come and go
London, UK - Larry the cat whose official title is Chief Mouser, has been overseeing the work of Britain's leaders for more than a decade. In that time he has "seen off" three leaders and is preparing to welcome a fourth who is set to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Johnson wasn't the first British prime minister to have been outlasted in Downing Street by a cat. And he likely won't be the last. Larry the cat, roaming the rooms of the official residence for a decade now, has more social media followers than the next premier.
"Like all prime ministers, he’s only a temporary resident of Downing Street," Larry said, referring to the seat of government. "I live here permanently. When he finally goes, I stay," Larry declared, at least according to an unofficial Twitter account run on his behalf.
The tabby has given Britons a measure of stability amid the political turmoil that has raged since he was brought to Westminster from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in 2011 by then prime minister David Cameron.
"Gifts and treats" for him have been sent to Downing Street daily ever since.
That is partly thanks to his feline habit of stealing the show, standing in front of the Downing Street door, which is often surrounded by photographers and camera crews waiting for politicians to emerge.
He lets the police officers guarding the building open the door for him so he can chase pigeons. He also enjoys stretching out on a window sill in the sun, in what is often a welcomed distraction from political pronouncements.
But Larry is more than just a popular pet.
Larry the cat's popularity is no surprise
The Twitter account run in Larry's name with the handle @Number10cat has nearly 650,000 followers. This means the feline's account has a wider reach than either of the two contenders to replace Johnson: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or former chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.
Britain's Conservative Party members will decide whether Truss or Sunak will be the next party leader, and the country's new prime minister, on September 5.
No one knows who runs the account, but its success comes as no surprise, the person behind Larry told DPA: "Dogs might be man’s best friend, but cats run the internet so I’m not surprised by the popularity of Larry’s account. It turns out that cat pictures and politics is a compelling mix!"
Posts on the account tend to be critical of the leadership or provide a humorous take on the issues of the day, matching prime ministerial statements with pictures of Larry or cat memes.
The account suggests that Larry is no real fan of the prime ministers he shares the building with.
"Larry has lived with three Prime Ministers and all have had their faults, but Boris Johnson was always destined to fail in this role due to his character flaws," the account holder told DPA.
Nor is the future necessarily brighter. "Cats will always be naturally cynical and critical but equally they’ll be supportive of they like what they see. Unfortunately, it seems Johnson’s replacement is unlikely to be an improvement, but statistically we’re due a good leader at some stage!" the account holder says.
Leaders try to make nice with Larry the cat
Truss, meanwhile, has tried to ingratiate herself with the cat. "I'm one of his preferred Cabinet Ministers," she told a campaign event recently.
"One of the many reasons I want to be prime minister is I want to build on that friendship."
Larry, 15, still appears to be in good shape so could potentially see a further leader, as a general election is due within two years.
Leader of the opposition Keir Starmer of the Labour Party has good chances, according to Larry's Twitter account holder, who added that doesn't necessarily mean the cat will be a fan.
But if Larry dies, the Twitter account would go too.
For now, there is plenty of work for him at Number 10, with the building plagued by mice as are many houses in London. Given the scale of the problem, many more cats might be needed.
A reference to Chief Mouser on a government website shows officials have an eye on the situation. "His day-to-day responsibilities also include contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house. Larry says this is still ‘in tactical planning stage'."
Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/@Number10cat