Chief Mouser to the House: Taking after the Elite Civil Servant

June 18, 2021

What would you do if you have a rodent problem? A problem like what we had, for example.

You probably would go the same way we did: hire an exterminator.

Transform all the rodents into carcasses and toss them out.

Techniques for this transformation can be cruel or messy. Poison is a slow killer of rats and mice (handled poorly, it can hurt humans too). Glue boards are no better. Snap traps are supposed to be instantaneous in their effect but can be messy at times.

There has to be a better way.

And there is!

Enter Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who shows the way. Residing at 10 Downing Street in London, he has been on the job of keeping the mice out of the British Prime Minister’s residence since 2011.

Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
(Source: Wikimedia)

Prime Ministers come and go, but the Chief Mouser is on duty just like the other Civil Servants.

The resident cat at the seat of government is a long-standing tradition in England, dating back to the 1500s, but we only have modern records of it since the 1920s. The cats are ‘hired’ for the express purpose of controlling the rodent population. They command an annual budget!

The Chief Mouser with the longest history so far is Wilberforce who had a 13-year tenure and served under Prime Ministers Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher.

There are times when this post is unfilled and mice have a free rein at the Prime Minister’s residence. January 2011 was one such time.

On spotting rats running around on the steps of the residence during TV news reports, things quickly came to a head to remedy the situation. Personally selected by Prime Minister David Cameron and family, Larry was hired in February 2011. It didn’t take too long for him to hob nob with President Obama. They met in May 2011.

Larry in the company of President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron
(Source: Wikimedia)

Who knows, Larry may eclipse Wilberforce’s tenure if he sticks around for four more years. He has already completed 10 years on the job and worked for Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, and currently, Boris Johnson.

Not just for the government

The wisdom of using a cat to control rodent population seems elementary. It is tempting to believe that every house cat that is a pet in any home can rise to this challenge and be the Chief Mouser to the House.

But there may be more to it than meets the eye.

Some cats just won’t hunt. Some may catch the mice but not eat them. Some can even be scared of their prey! [Disclaimer: These and other problems with cats as pest control are from a pest control company]

So, I was thinking about Akila, my daughter and son-in-law’s pet. We think she is adorable. I think you’ll agree.

Can she be the Chief Mouser to the House?

Akila, Chief Mouser to the House?

When I look at her staring at me, I think she is cute. But would a mouse have the same reaction to her stare? Does she have the hunting instinct and could help with pest control?

I was reminded of an incident my daughter reported a few weeks ago.

A stray bird had flown into her apartment and got trapped inside. Akila apparently went on high alert and started stalking the bird and attacking it with a clear intent to kill.

My daughter felt sorry for the bird and intervened. If it was a mouse I am sure there would have been no intervention.

Key benefit

In all this, we generally focus on the hunter and the propensity for a kill.

But an interesting twist in the scenario is the smart prey.

On sensing the cat around, smart mice would avoid the area, thereby preventing the whole problem in the first place.

No drama, no mess, no pest!

That’s what impressed me the most about a house cat as natural pest control: Chief Mouser to the House.

I wonder if the British government agrees.

Happy hunting for a hunter!

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. Everything here is hearsay. How’s that for a bold admission! We don’t have pets. Never had any.

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