Cats with careers: Four enviable purr-fessions
From pouncing to pay roll – these cats have got it sussed.
Experts in the arts of lounging, procuring snacks and being totally nonchalant, cats bring a truly impressive array of skills to the table. But what happens when they turn their paws to the world of work? We take a look at some top career kitties.
Busking assistant/film star
Bob aka Street Cat Bob rose to fame for his relationship with his BFF, James Bowen. The pair met in 2007, when an injured Bob approached busker James for help. James was struggling with addiction at the time and spent the last of his earnings on antibiotics for Bob who, in turn, swiftly adopted him. James’s usually solitary sessions busking and selling The Big Issue soon became a joint venture, with crowds charmed by the scarf-clad moggy. The duo gained internet fame, leading to book deals, and two films in which Bob himself starred. James describes Bob as having “turned everything around” for him and helped him get his life back on track.
Though Bob sadly died in 2020, his legacy is far from forgotten. His memorial bench in Islington, London, is inscribed with the words: “He is my companion, my best friend, my teacher and my soulmate. And he will remain all of those things. Always.” Famous film star though he was, Bob’s most important role was arguably that of Leading Man for his best buddy.
When they’re not too busy ignoring us, our furry friends can be a great source of comfort and delight. Some cuddly creatures have put that to good use by providing therapeutic visits for people in settings such as care homes, hospitals, and schools. As Matthew Robinson from UK-based charity Pets As Therapy puts it on their website, such schemes exist “to help people in need”, seeking to calm people, “provide them with comfort and bring some joy to their lives”.
One such therapy animal is Mr London Meow, who can be found visiting his pals at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel (pandemic restrictions-permitting, of course). He’s made quite a name for himself, from social media to BBC News. Whilst technically a voluntary gig, London Meow and his friends display all the hallmarks of dedicated professionals, turning up spick and span for their busy days of cuddles.
We hear a lot about the human residents of 10 Downing Street, but did you know the house is also home to Larry the cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office? He and his recently retired Foreign Office counterpart, Palmerston, are the latest in a long line of feline government employees who have been tasked with mousing. The National Archives holds records of a number of Home Office cats, for example. The papers, amongst other things, plot the history of mousers Peter, Peter II, Peter III, and Peta, who all succeeded each other in the role.
But what exactly does a mouser do (besides the obvious)? In post since February 2011, the GOV.UK website describes number 10’s current role-holder’s tasks as “greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences and testing antique furniture for napping quality”, along with musing over rodent reduction solutions. Meanwhile, Palmerston’s retirement announcement in 2020 noted that he was enjoying “climbing trees and patrolling the fields around his new home in the countryside”.
Similarly to the government, the Post Office has a history of having pussycats on the pay roll. The Postal Museum’s website reports that cats were employed for mousing purposes from 1868 right through to 1984. One particularly beloved staff member was Tibs, described in his obituary in the Post Office Magazine as “the Post Office’s number one cat, the imposing 23lb giant who reigned at Post Office Headquarters”.
However, employing feline friends was not without its challenges. Archived minutes from a 1953 meeting report “a certain amount of industrial chaos in the Post Office cat world”, with difficulties navigating fair pay and rewards for the cats, as well as a number of err… employee reliability issues.