The Chief Mouser Of The British Government

“How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.” —Robert A. Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset

In A Nutshell

“Humphrey” was the name of a cat that occupied Downing Street from the late ’80s to the mid-2000s who was an almost constant source of media fascination. When he disappeared in the mid-2000s, officials looking to disprove theories of Humphrey’s assassination showed reporters to the safe house where he was staying.

reporters were taken to a safe house where he was being kept to dismiss rumors that he’d been assassinated.

The Whole Bushel

For anyone who knows little about British politics, 10 Downing Street is Britain’s version of the White House. It’s where the Prime Minister lives, where his cabinet meets and, for a time, where a saucy cat called Humphrey used to hunt mice.

Humphrey first infiltrated Downing Street in 1989. A civil servant found him wandering around and presented him to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The fact that Humphrey could save the taxpayer money by catching mice and having an upkeep at a fraction of the cost of an exterminator appealed to an ever pragmatic Thatcher, so she allowed him to stay. Thus began Humphrey’s reign as Downing Street’s official mouser, a reign that would span 12 years and multiple prime ministers.

Weirdly, even though he was a cat, Humphrey was not immune to the sort of scandals that surround anyone in political office. During his time at Downing Street he was accused of being a serial killer—of birds, not people, of course—and scratching cabinet ministers. When Cherie and Tony Blair arrived, the press claimed that Cherie hated cats and wanted to get rid of him. Humphrey was so beloved by the public that this prompted Cherie Blair to issue photos of herself smiling with Humphrey and enjoying his company.

Later, when Humphrey disappeared from Downing Street it caused the press to speculate that he’d even been murdered. Weirdly, this was all taken very seriously. To stop the rumors that the leader of Britain had murdered its most beloved cat, several reporters were taken to a safe house where Humphrey actually was and were allowed to take photos of him as he sat on the day’s newspapers.

Show Me The Proof

The Guardian: Humphrey, cat; born 1988, died 2006
Telegraph: Humphrey the cat: my part in his downfall
BBC: Downing Street cat Humphrey dies