‘Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been? I’ve been to London to look at the queen.’
It turns out the cat from the nursery rhyme isn’t alone in seeking out the rich and powerful. Countless felines have snuggled up in the laps of the world’s decision-makers. Dogs, meanwhile, are equally adept at sniffing out the alpha male or female in the room. We take a look at 10 of the most well-connected felines and canines in world history.
Was Churchill, widely known as the ‘British Bulldog’, really a cat fanatic? Yes, according to his political secretary Sir John Colville. He wrote in his diary, ‘I went into the PM’s bedroom. He was lying in bed […] smoking a cigar and dictating to Mrs Hill. The PM’s black cat Nelson was stretched out across the bedcovers, and from time to time Winston would look at it lovingly and murmur: “Cat, darling.”’ No, we can’t get this image out of our heads either.
Thailand, of course, is the original home to the Siamese cat. Which presumably means its monarch has a thing for these sleek and majestic creatures. Wrong. It turns out the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a fanatical dog lover. In fact his favourite dog, a rescued stray called Thong Daeng, had a best-selling book written about him by the king himself.
Abraham Lincoln is widely considered the greatest president of the United States. And perhaps its poorest namer of cats. What did he call his beloved tabby. Er… Tabby. To be fair to Lincoln, he did usher in a fine tradition of introducing cats to the White House. And the names got better. Theodore Roosevelt had Tom Quartz and Slippers; Bill Clinton introduced Socks; and Jimmy Carter welcomed in the fabulously named Misty Malarky Ying Yang.
Willow and Holly
Everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth II is devoted to her corgis. But did you know her current darlings, Willow and Holly, are two of over 30 of the breed she’s owned in her long reign? So what is life like for a royal canine? Well, it really is a case of how the other ‘arf arf’ lives. Willow and Holly are free to scamper about the palace at will, love green veg and venison and are served dinner by Her Majesty herself.
Larry and Freya
If ever there was a pair of political animals, it’s Larry and Freya of Downing Street. Larry lived in Number 10 with David Cameron, and Freya next door with Chancellor George Osborne. Between them, they shared the grand title Official Chief Mousers of the Cabinet Office. Cute? Hardly. Larry and Freya were caught brawling in front of the PM’s home in 2012 and had to be separated by a policeman. Cue a tabloid scandal…
A beautiful black and white-spotted cocker spaniel called Checkers set tongues – and probably a few tails – wagging back in 1952. In a TV address, then senator Richard Nixon defended himself against claims he had improperly spent $18,000 in campaign donations. He then told the world there was one campaign gift he would not be giving back – Checkers, a dog that was beloved by the politician and his family. Checkers instantly became a sensation across the USA.
Lauren, Sunny, Sadie, Lyla and Luke
Like every good owner, Queen of the chat show Oprah Winfrey ensures her dogs are well provided for. Unlike most good owners, though, Oprah’s put aside an estimated $30 million for the care of her springer spaniels, cocker spaniel and golden retrievers. Seriously – after they’ve bought the umpteenth diamond encrusted collar, what do these pampered pooches do with all that money?
Still got Churchill growling ‘Cat, darling’ in your head? (See number one, above.) Then you might like to know that the British bulldog did indeed have a love of canines too. Never in the history of prime ministers has a pooch been quite so spoiled. Poodle Rufus ate in the dining room next to the head of the table and no one was permitted to start until he had been served his meal!
You’ve heard of the privileged ‘it’ girl. Now meet the ‘kit’ girl. The three-year-old Birman of Karl Lagerfeld, Choupette loves using her iPad (presumably to catch electronic mice) and has two maids waiting on her every miaow. She also has a make-up collection and book due out and, according to her owner, made an estimated £3 million in 2014!
To end, we’d like to introduce a cat who’s a power-player in his own right. Stubbs became mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, after voters complained there was no decent human candidate. Outside of his mayoral duties, he enjoys the simple things like chasing after mice and birds. Meanwhile, the town does really have a human mayor – as you might have suspected, Stubbs enjoys an honorary role.
From Churchill’s beloved cat to Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis, we look at 10 pets that have walked (and probably stalked) the corridors of power.