Humphrey (cat)

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Humphrey
SpeciesCat
Breed"Moggie" or mixed breed
SexMale
Bornc. 1988
DiedMarch 2006 (aged 17/18)
London, England
Nation fromUnited Kingdom
OccupationMouser, Pet
EmployerCabinet Office
TitleChief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
Term1989-97
PredecessorWilberforce
SuccessorSybil
OwnerCabinet Office
Appearanceblack and white fur
Named afterHumphrey Appleby

Humphrey (c. 1988 – March 2006) was a cat who worked at 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He lived there from October 1989 to 13 November 1997. His title was "Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office".[1]

He first came as a one-year-old stray cat. He served as chief cat for Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair. He went into retirement six months after the Blairs moved into Downing Street.[2] He took over for the previous cat, Wilberforce.[3] He was sometimes said to be a real employee at Number 10, by journalists.

Start of employment[change | change source]

Humphrey was found as a stray by a Cabinet Office civil servant. He was named in honour of Sir Humphrey Appleby, a civil servant character on British televsion. After the previous mouser, Wilberforce, had died, the Cabinet Office and Number 10 were in need of a replacement, so Humphrey began his work.

He was often seen posing for pictures in front of the famous Number 10 front door. His main job was catching mice and rats in the maze of Downing Street buildings. The poor quality of the buildings, some of which were built in the 16th century,[4] and the nearby St. James's Park made them a sure place for pests.

Goes missing[change | change source]

In June 1995, Humphrey went missing. Downing Street did not tell the public about this until Sheila Gunn, a writer for The Times, found out. Gunn had told a member of staff that her own cat had died and they shared about the missing cat.[5] Gunn's story was mentioned on the front page.[6] He was then found in a nearby medical college. He had been taken in as a stray and renamed PC, short for "patrol cat".

When he came back to Downing Street, Humphrey gave a news report saying: "I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College, but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session."[7]

Humphrey and the Blairs[change | change source]

Within a week of Tony Blair moving to 10 Downing Street after the May 1997 general election, newspapers said that Humphrey and Cherie Blair, the new Prime Minister's wife, were not getting along.[8] Mrs Blair was said to either be allergic to cats or believed them to be unclean.[9] Sheila Gunn, later said that she was the source of these reports. Her obituary says they were based "on a hunch for which she had no evidence".[5]

At the time, an official for the family said that Humphrey would not be moving out, saying that Number 10 "is Humphrey's home and, as far as the Blairs are concerned, it will remain his home". A photo of Humphrey and Mrs Blair was given to the press. This did not calm fears that the cat would be forced out. Rumours went around that Humphrey was drugged by press secretary Alastair Campbell, before being taken away.[10]

In November 1997, Humphrey's personal caregiver, Jonathan Rees, who worked for the Prime Minister, wrote a letter saying that the cat should retire to a "stable home environment where he can be looked after properly".[7] While kidney problems were given as the reason for his retirement, many believed that Mrs Blair caused it.[11][12]

Later life[change | change source]

Humphrey moved to his new home with an older couple in the suburbs of London on 13 November 1997. The news of his retirement was not told until the next day, because there was fear that the cat might be kidnapped.[13]

Little was heard about Humphrey over the next few years. Many people though that he had died.

The Daily Telegraph made a "Freedom of Information Act" request for documents about him in early 2005. This led to more information being uncovered about his time at Downing Street. In its March 2005 report about Humphrey, the Telegraph sadly said "Where Humphrey is now - or even whether he is still with us - remains a mystery. 'I am not having much luck,' a Cabinet Office spokesman confessed last night. His official minder has not heard from him in seven years."[7] Finally, on 22 July 2005, The Independent reported that "the 17-year-old mouser is alive and well and living in south London."[14]

Death[change | change source]

In March 2006, an official for Tony Blair reported that Humphrey had died the week before. He died at his offical retirement home.[15]

References[change | change source]

  1. Purr-fect ending fur Humphrey!, BBC News Online, 25 November 1997, retrieved 30 May 2015.
  2. White, Michael (2006-03-21). "Obituary: Humphrey, cat; born 1988, died 2006". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  3. Pierce, Andrew (2009-07-28). "Downing Street cat Sybil dies". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2015. Humphrey, a long haired black and white cat, was the successor to Wilberforce who "took office" with Edward Heath in 1970.
  4. Duncan, Andrew (2006). Secret London (5 ed.). London: New Holland. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-84537-305-4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Sheila Gunn (obituary)". The Times. 30 October 2014. p. 62.
  6. "Downing St in mourning". The Times. 26 September 1995. p. 1.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Millward, David (15 March 2005). "Humphrey... the Downing Street dossier". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  8. Verkaik, Robert (9 December 2006). "Status: Catnapped". The Independent. p. 18.
  9. Alleyne, Richard (21 March 2006). "Humphrey: a cat's life". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  10. Kirby, Ian (25 April 1999). "Spin doc 'drugged' Humphrey at No10". News of the World. p. 15.
  11. Staff writer (21 March 2006). "Humphrey the cat". The Sun. p. 20. Cherie Blair exiled the unfortunate moggie from his long-time Westminster home
  12. Edge, Simon (29 December 2006). "Gone but not forgotten". Daily Express. ...evicted on the orders of Cherie Blair
  13. Humphrey bids a feline farewell, BBC News Online, 15 November 1997, retrieved 30 May 2015.
  14. Celebrity Companions: Love me, love my pet, The Independent, 22 July 2005, retrieved 30 May 2015 Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  15. Downing Street cat Humphrey dies, BBC News, 20 March 2006, retrieved 30 May 2015

Other websites[change | change source]


Preceded by
Wilberforce
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
1989–1997
Succeeded by
Sybil