Larry, the Downing Street cat, is barred from private residence

Dec. 28, 2011 at 2:45 PM ET

Reuters file /
Larry the Downing Street cat sits under the Christmas tree at his home in central London. Staff at the prime minister's offices consider him a great colleague, describing him as friendly and playful.

Larry the cat has been a resident at No. 10 Downing Street for nearly a year now, but it has only recently been revealed that he is less than free to roam around all areas of his home.

The tabby, hired as the U.K. government’s rat catcher last winter, wanders regularly around the British prime minister’s offices, but is locked out of the leader’s private living quarters, shared with his wife and three children. As in the White House — although on a smaller scale —  the prime minister’s residence is located in the same building as his official headquarters.

“David and his children are very keen on Larry. But it is a flat within an office so it is difficult,” a No. 10 spokesman told the Mirror newspaper. “If he was in it, he wouldn’t be able to get into the rest of the building where he has the run of the place. He wouldn’t be able to access the rats.”

Last year, the prime minister’s residence was given a $100,000 face-lift, which included a second kitchen and a new toilet, according to the British media. The Larry lock-out was revealed, according to the Mirror, after details of the renovation were released.

Despite the lockout, Larry, who is described by No. 10 workers as very friendly and playful, has been a good addition to Prime Minister David Cameron’s team, catching several mice and rats over the past 10 months. Yet, Cameron may need to consider beefing up his feline task force, as a mouse was reportedly spotted in Downing Street last month.

As with most topics in politics, not everyone agreed with Downing Street’s rational for limiting Larry’s domain.

“Poor Larry is being treated like some servant from 'Downton Abbey',” Labour MP Kerry McCarthy told the newspaper, referring to the wildly-popular TV drama about a aristocrat's family and their servants. “It is shocking that after all the publicity he is not even allowed to set paw inside the Prime Minister's flat.”

Rachel Elbaum is a London-based writer who hopes never to catch a mouse in her house.