Cats. According to one of my misquoted sources, they run the internet. What I can confirm is that one definitely runs our home – and I just had to put together a list of the best cats in London – both real and sculptural. They’re historical, mischevious, know exactly how to wrap their humans around their paw, and are really rather cute.
– Kaspar the Cat at The Savoy Hotel, The Strand –
Not only does he have a restaurant named after him, but walk past the entrance to the famous 5-star Savoy hotel on The Strand and you will see a topiary cat. Kaspar’s story begins with the legend of an 1898 dinner at the Savoy given for 14 guests by a South African diamond tycoon. One of the diners was unable to attend, leaving the number of guests an unlucky 13, and another diner predicted that whoever first left the table would soon die. The first to leave was Joel, who died a few weeks later in Johannesburg. After this, the hotel offered to seat a member of its staff at tables of 13 to ward off bad luck
Finally, in 1926, the designer Basil Ionides sculpted a 3-foot high art-deco black cat called Kaspar, which is used as the 14th guest. Kaspar is given a full place setting, a napkin is tied around his neck, and he is served each course. I also rather adore that Winston Churchill liked Ionides’s Kaspar so much that he insisted that the sculpture join his parties of any size when dining at the Savoy.
– Ray Brown at the Seven Stars Pub, Holborn –
Built in 1602, the Seven Stars pub was in all likelihood was built specifically as an alehouse (the evidence has some patches to contend with) but in modern times, it’s a retreat for celebrating legal eagles who like cozy interiors. One of the most famous residents – a black and white ruff wearing cat called Tom Paine – has alas passed from this mortal coil, but a young fur-fellow called Ray Brown also keeps a close eye on the goings-on, wearing his Elizabethan ruff and eschewing photographs. (If you’re still thirsty, I’d recommend a stop off at the Cittie of York too.)
– Sir Godfrey of Hazlitt’s Hotel, Soho –
We met this cutie on a London staycation – Sir Godfrey is the ginger cat at large that occasionally greets guests when they stay in the Soho townhouse. He usually lurks around the concierge desk, but often disappears when any work needs to be done, down to his cosy downstairs den. He’s one of the canniest to make this list of the best cats in London.
– The Lions Guarding Trafalgar Square –
The four huge bronze lions each weighing seven tons and sitting majestically underneath Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square today make one of the most famous sites in London – a must-do photo! Even though the column and statue of Nelson were completed in 1843, the London public had to wait 24 years for the arrival of these big cats. Look closely at the paws – are they complete?
– Lilibet at the Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner –
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– Dick Whittington’s Cat, Highgate Hill & Bank –
Four-times Lord Mayor Dick Whittington is inseparable from his cat in popular imagination. Unfortunately, there’s no clinching evidence that the moggy existed outside the pantomime tradition. Still, the nameless cat is enshrined in two statues (that we know of) in London: one on Highgate Hill and another outside Guildhall Art Gallery.
– Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, Westminster –
Want to find a really famous, real cat in London? Behind the black iron gates of Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, you might be lucky enough to spot Larry the grey and white tabby cat. Larry has the official title ‘Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office’. He has been in residence since 2011 and is responsible for keeping the mouse population in check. Sometimes Larry can be seen fighting another political pussycat from a different government office opposite. His rival is Palmerston, the black and white cat who also has an official title, ‘Chief Mouser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’. He not only has the accolade of making this list of the best cats in London, but he also has a pretty brilliant and very sharp Twitter account.
Photo Credit: © OGL via Wikimedia Commons.
– Trim, Matthew Flinder’s Cat, Euston Station –
One of the most interesting pieces of public art in Euston Station is a statue of scientist and navigator Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), credited with popularising the name Australia, and the first person to circumnavigate the ‘Great Southern Land’ and map South Australia’s coastline. The statue, by sculptor Mark Richards, shows Flinders leaning over a chart of Australia, dividers in hand, accompanied by his faithful pet cat Trim.
– Hodge, Dr Samuel Johnson’s Cat, Holborn –
Beside his beliefs concerning humanity and infamy creating the first dictionary, Dr Johnson is also known for his love of cats, especially his own two cats, Hodge and Lily. Boswell wrote, “I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat.” You can see Hodge’s statue when you visit
Dr Johnson’s beloved pet can be found immortalised in bronze outside the great lexicographer’s house in Gough Square. The good doctor would make special trips to buy oysters for the beast, and the modern likeness of Hodge stands beside a pair of empty oyster shells, revelling in the inscription “A very fine cat indeed”. Cat food is often left at the base of his statue by visitors, which in turn is gathered for the local cat’s charities. Definitely one of the best cats in London.
– Biscuit, our wee Tabby beastie, somewhere cosy in London –
Obviously, as the blog overlord/mascot she had to be on the list somewhere. A bog-standard Mackerel Tabby (the default colouring of domesticated shorthair cats) we adopted her when she was still a kitten and had eyes bigger than the rest of her. She snoozes every evening at my shoulder, cat naps in sunlit corners each morning and knocks over her favourite cushions when she fancies an afternoon nap. Between catching all those zzzzzz’s she keeps a firm eye on how much work I get done when working from home and how empty her food bowl is getting (though is luckily appeased with a quick shake to ensure she can’t see the bottom of her bowl).
– A Street Cat Named Bob –
Now an international print success, Bob is a street cat that adopted a recovering drug addict, James, and helped him turn his life around. James became a Youtube hit, then landed a book deal about this special ginger tom – how he was ill, nursed Bob back to health then followed James into town where he was busking one day. Since then he has become a huge hit, their tale attracting a book deal which (according to Wikipedia) has sold 250,000 copies, been translated into 22 languages and spent over 45 weeks at the top of the Sunday Times’ bestseller list. He’s now retired to the countryside to live out the rest of his days in leafy splendour.
– Faith –
Faith, the church cat of St Augustine’s (the tower of which still stands next to St Paul’s Cathedral) is said to have predicted the Blitz. A couple of days before the aerial onslaught began, the cat set up a nursery (or whatever cats call them) for her newborn kitten in the basement of the church, refusing several times to remain in the cosier ground-floor quarters. The Blitz began, the church was razed, but subterranean Faith and her kitten survived thanks to the supposed premonition. The cat later received a silver medal for bravery.
– Doorkins Magnificat, formerly of Southwark Cathedral –
Taking a much-deserved retirement now that her eyesight is failing, Doorkins adopted the cathedral and became an internet superstar. She’s now ensconced in a cosy home and forever immortalised in a stone corbel under the Southwark Cathedral roof eaves.
– Able Seat Cat Simon –
My heart was broken by a weathered, whiskery old Sailor. His name was Simon, and served gallantly aboard the HMS Amethyst at times under heavy fire in turbulent seas during World War II. Learn more about Simon’s story here.
– All the local pub cats –
Seriously, there’s an international map: http://www.pubcats.com
Do you have a favourite London cat to add to this list of the best cats in London?
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