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Cameron Hires Cat Larry to Catch Downing Street Rats

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- David Cameron gave into the pleas of his children and some of his staff and appointed Larry, a rescued stray tabby, as the official prime ministerial cat.

Controversy over whether the premier’s central London residence and office at 10 Downing Street needed a pet has raged since at least the start of the year, when a large black rat was shown on television running past the front door. Shortly afterward, Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, said there were “pro-cat” and “anti-cat” factions at No. 10.

Today, as Larry traveled from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to Downing Street to explore his new home, Field said Cameron’s children had been in the pro-cat grouping.

“There was a group of people within Downing Street who thought it was a very good idea, and they won,” Field told reporters in London. He also offered some detail of the selection process. “Larry showed a very strong predatory drive and enjoyed playing with toy mice.”

Larry is an office cat, rather than a family pet, and his food bill will be met by Downing Street staff.

Previous feline residents of No. 10 include Humphrey, a stray who wandered into the building in 1989 when Margaret Thatcher lived there and was adopted. Rumors that Cherie Blair had forced Humphrey out when her husband Tony took office in 1997 led to her posing with the cat for a picture. He died in 2006. The following year the new chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling, who lived next door at No. 11, brought in his own cat, Sybil.

‘Charm Our Visitors’

“I’m delighted to welcome Larry to his new home,” Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. “He came highly recommended to me by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who did a fantastic job looking after him. I’m sure he will be a great addition to Downing Street and will charm our many visitors.”

Within hours of Larry’s arrival, the Twitter social-networking website had four users claiming to be Larry: @TabbyLarry, @LarryAtNumber10, @No10Larry and @DowningStCat, as well as an online opponent, @No10Rat, who pointed out that Larry has been neutered.

Cameron has three children: Nancy, 7, Elwen, 5, and Florence, born in August. His eldest son, Ivan, who was severely disabled, died in 2009, at age 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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