1. Dick Whittington’s cat
Without his whiskered sidekick, Dick Whittington might never have become Lord Mayor of London – or so the story goes. Upon witnessing its rat-catching prowess, a foreign king paid a huge sum to buy the cat to deal with his mice-infested palace, instantly making Whittington a rich man and setting him up for a career in politics. Would-be Boris-usurpers, take note.
Single-handedly writing a dictionary has to rank pretty highly in the pantheon of laborious tasks. Fortunately for Samuel Johnson, he had the companionship of faithful mog Hodge to help him through his nine-year slog. This ‘very fine cat indeed’ was so doted on by the great essayist that he would interrupt his work to buy it oysters, and there’s now a statue of the animal outside Doctor Johnson’s old house in Gough Square. And, in case you’re wondering: ‘Cat: a domestick animal that catches mice, commonly reckoned by naturalists the lowest order of the leonine species.’ Cheers, Doc.
3.Lady Dinah’s cats
At which London café might you find Blofeld, Llewyn Davis and Holly Golightly? At Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, of course. In the world of celebrity cats, the charming furballs that lounge, pounce and prowl around Shoreditch’s much-publicised new cat café are definitely the current in-crowd. And they already seem to know it: when we visited, they totally ignored us. How quickly fame goes to the head.
4. Street Cat Bob
Bob is the epitome of cool. A ginger tabby who sports a modish scarf, he can be seen hanging around with busker James Bowen in Covent Garden, nonchalantly putting up with the endless affection of passers-by and probably humming Squeeze’s ‘Cool for Cats’ to himself. Who can blame him? His friendship helped rescue Bowen from a life of drugs and homelessness. He’s had multiple books written about him, published by Har-purr Collins, obviously.
5. Faith the church cat
In what might be the only instance of a clairvoyant tabby, this beloved resident of St Augustine with St Faith church in the City apparently foresaw the Blitz in 1940 and took refuge with her young kitten, Panda, in the basement a good 24 hours before the first air raid. After the church was destroyed by bombs, the two felines were rescued from the rubble, alive and well thanks to Faith’s foresight. She was even awarded a medal for bravery by the Archbishop of Canterbury. What has your cat ever done, eh?
A geriatric feline from Orpington was last year declared the world’s oldest cat at 28 (140 in cat years), helpfully contextualised for readers by a local paper as ‘the same age as Dizzee Rascal’. At her ripe old age, Cola became a national celebrity and the most exciting thing to happen to Orpington since… oh come on, there must be something.
You need a killer instinct to survive in politics, as proved by Downing Street’s most famous rodent regulator. Serving under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, former stray Humphrey rose through the ranks to become chief mouser, but was retired from duty a few weeks after the Blairs moved in. Rumours spread that Cherie had given Humphrey the boot, but these turned out to be careless whiskers.
Not just any cats, but Grizabella, Munkustrap, Rumpleteazer, the Rum Tum Tugger and their tribe of pawed pals. They might sound like the kind of paraphernalia only available in specialist Soho shops, but they’re actually the stars of the Andrew Lloyd Webber hit that opened in the West End in 1981 and went on to become one of the world’s most successful musicals. A show with nine lives if ever there was one.
9. British Museum Mike
Mike was a working cat in the truest sense: a whiskered jobsworth who approached his duty with all the tenacity of a ticket inspector. From 1909 to 1929 he guarded the British Museum from unwelcome animal entrants, namely pigeons. Many a feathered trespasser was captured during his ruthless reign, and he was rewarded with a tomb near the museum’s Great Russell Street entrance.
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury loved cats like cats love cream. He had many feline friends, but the most famous is Delilah, a tricoloured tortoiseshell who inspired the Queen song of the same name. You might think he’s singing about a girl – up until he talks about her peeing ‘all over my Chippendale suite’. Although with Freddie, you never know.
Feline like you need more cat action? You should probably head down to Lady Dinah’s Cat Cafe.