The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Larry the Cat chases much larger fox from Downing Street

Larry the Cat, Britain’s chief mouser, patrols outside the prime minister's residence on Downing Street. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
2 min

LONDON — A London fox is just the latest to learn what many animals in central London already know: Don’t mess with Larry the Cat.

Larry, Downing Street’s “chief mouser,” made headlines in Britain this week when he chased off a fox prowling on his turf.

Foxes in London are a thing. Thousands roam the streets. It’s not uncommon to see a blur of red fur late at night as foxes dart across a road, or to see eyes lighting up in the dark as they lurk behind rubbish bins, in search of scraps of discarded food.

In Larry’s case, the fox was roaming around his patch outside of the prime minister’s residence at Downing Street when the cat went into full attack mode, chasing off an animal twice his size who fled into a flower bed before, wisely, getting out of there.

The feline-canine standoff wasn’t the first time that Larry showed who was the real boss at Downing Street.

Larry, a 15-year-old tabby, has had several encounters with animals outside of Downing Street, his home since 2011, when staff adopted him from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, an animal welfare agency that helps to find homes for unwanted pets. He was originally brought in to help with a rodent problem; the prime minister’s spokesman at the time said he had a “strong predatory drive.”

Adopted in 2011, Larry the cat has become a fixture at 10 Downing Street. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

The British public saw just how strong that drive was when the rolling cameras, waiting for an update from officials on tense Brexit talks, caught Larry lunging at an pigeon. The bird seemed unharmed (miraculously) and flew off after their brief tussle.

He’s also bossed around fellow felines. His great nemesis was Palmerston, a black-and-white cat that belonged to the Foreign Office. The two have had highly undiplomatic relations, hissing and swiping at each other. In 2020, Palmerston “retired” to the countryside where he could “spend more time relaxing away from the limelight.”

Larry has also seen off several human members of the animal kingdom. He has stayed on at Downing Street through the premierships of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. He may still be warming up to new Prime Minister Liz Truss. He was caught on camera slinking away from Truss this month when she bent down to pet him on the front steps.

Given the current political climate — Truss fired her chancellor on Friday while reversing economic policies that sunk the pound — some are wondering if it won’t be long before Larry sees her chased off, as well.