Larry the cat has recently been appointed as 'Chief Mouser' to Number 10 Downing Street - but did you know that several government offices have appointed cats in the past? The National Archives has files dated from the 1920s from the Cabinet Office, the Cabinet War Rooms, the Treasury and the Home Office with details about the appointment and subsistence allowances for various 'Chief Mousers'.
Letting the cat out of the bag
Files at The National Archives reveal that each of the resident mouse catchers of the Home Office has been called Peter, since 1929. The first reference on the files shows that in 1929 a cat called Peter was appointed and received an allowance of 1p per day for food. The files are filled with letters from residents around the UK declaring their support for Peter the cat and complaining on Peter's behalf about the poor allowance he received. The allowance has been amended over the years to reflect rising costs.
The original Peter the Home Office cat was 'Chief Mouser' in residence until 1946 when he passed away. There are letters from Austria, Italy and the USA mourning the death of Peter, including one letter from the 'Peter Remembrance Society'. Peter was appreciated by the nation and many at the Home Office but some members of staff were less keen. Files report an incident of Peter soiling a rug just moments before the Queen entered. Fortunately an official noticed the offence and discarded the evidence by throwing it out of the window before the Queen entered.
Shortly after the death of Peter, Peter II was appointed. He served a total of 16 years service until he died in March 1964, when he was run over on Whitehall. The next feline appointment set the cat amongst the pigeons when a female cat was given as a replacement: the name of Peter was changed to Peta to keep the tradition going. Peta arrived at The Home Office in April 1964 and stayed in service until her retirement circa 1976.
Cats appointed to other government offices as 'Chief Mouser' include 'Jumbo' at the Cabinet War Rooms and 'Smokey' at the Treasury.