Peter III, Downing St. cat appointed in 1947, had to catch his own dinner

Peter III
Peter III and Larry. Image: MikeB using images deemed to be in the public domain.
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Peter III, also known as the ‘third Peter’, holds the record as the longest-serving chief mouser at Downing Street. He served for an impressive 17 years under five different prime ministers: Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, and Alec Douglas-Home. Peter III became the successor to Peter II, who tragically died after being hit by a car in Whitehall.

This feline celebrity attracted widespread attention, even appearing on the BBC current affairs program Tonight in 1958. His tartan cat collar with a medallion bearing his name added to his charm. Peter III’s legacy lives on, and he was laid to rest with full honors at the PDSA pet cemetery in Ilford, Essex.

In The Times today there is an interesting story about Peter III, which I think, to a certain extent, indicates the change in attitude and relationship that people have with their domestic cat companions in the UK and perhaps worldwide since the last war.

In the day of Peter III, there were very few obese cats! Nationwide obesity both in humans and cats was not a big health issues in those days.

People were in general thinner and so were their cats and I think this is illustrated in Peter III’s story. Although Larry, the current incumbent at Downing Street beats Peter III in terms of the number of prime ministers he has served (6), he is fed by Downing Street civil servants. Perhaps somewhat pampered compared to Peter.

Peter slept in a cabinet office in tray on a mattress made from copies of The Times but we are told by The Times that voters protested that he was being “starved after Peter’s ‘salary’, or food budget was published”.

One complainer received a reply from the cabinet office (I presume) saying that the mice he was employed to catch were not ‘perks’ but his ‘staple food’. To feed him more would encourage idleness.

The official added that Peter had recently left the pigeon on his desk that was chewed but not eaten. The official said that “This suggests that he is not suffering from starvation”. Yes, Peter had to catch his dinner. A different era I think you’d agree. An entirely different attitude towards wildlife conservation as well. Nowadays people are more sensitive to conservation because we are damaging nature and wildlife.

Larry is almost certainly more pampered than the Downing Street cat, Peter III, who was appointed in 1947. That was just after World War II, a time of rationing (see below). I was born one year later and having inherited that lifestyle, I don’t like obesity.

Rationing in Britain persisted for surprisingly long after the war ended. Many essential goods remained scarce, and the country’s economy was in rough shape. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that most items came off ration, with meat being the last in 1954 – a full nine years after VE Day [IWM rationing]. This means Britain was actually the last country involved in the war to completely do away with food rationing.

RELATED: Pet insurers are turning down claims because the companion animal is obese

2 thoughts on “Peter III, Downing St. cat appointed in 1947, had to catch his own dinner”

  1. Some peoples obesity is caused by a bad thyroid. Like my mother and her mother and her mother they all had Hashimoto’s. And as a 4th generation daughter I too was given it and it sucks. Right now I’m refusing a biopsy and looking for a second opinion. Being fat doesn’t always mean a person eats to much…


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