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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Famous British Feline Passes Away

Humphrey, a stray cat that took up residence at 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister's home in 1989, died recently, making front-page news in the UK.

The Brits are arguable nuttier about their pets than Americans, and it caused an uproar in 1997 when PM Tony Blair "evicted'' Humphrey from the official residence.

Here's the obit, from Reuters:

LONDON - Humphrey, a stray cat who wandered in to the official residence of Britain’s prime minister in 1989 and caused a scandal when he “retired” in 1997, has died, a spokesman for Tony Blair said on Monday.

The black and white one-time “mouser in chief” was perhaps the most famous pet in a country of animal worshippers.

“World of politics mourns a legend,” headlined the Sun, Britain’s largest circulation daily newspaper.

“It is true. We learned last week that Humphrey has died,” a spokesman confirmed. Humphrey was thought to be 18.

He had wandered into No. 10 Downing Street under Margaret Thatcher and remained throughout the tenure of John Major. But he was sent away to live with a civil servant in “retirement” months after Tony Blair was elected in 1997.

At the time, Conservative opponents accused Blair of having Humphrey put down because the new prime minister’s wife Cherie didn’t like the cat. Questions were raised. Fur flew.

“Humphrey is now a missing person. Unless I hear from him or he makes a public appearance, I suspect he has been shot,” opposition Conservative politician Alan Clark declared at the time.

The government finally arranged for press photos to prove Humphrey was still alive, saying he had gone to live with a civil servant to be treated for illness.

He was photographed, hostage-like, with copies of the day’s newspapers to show the pictures were fresh. Blair’s office issued a statement saying Cherie was sad to see him go.

It was not the only time Humphrey had been embroiled in scandal. In 1994 the government had to issue an official denial after the cat was accused of killing a family of robins.


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