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Tuesday, November 25, 1997 Published at 09:04 GMT

UK: Politics

Purr-fect ending fur Humphrey!
image: [ One photographer declared Humprey was the real McCoy, adding:
One photographer declared Humprey was the real McCoy, adding: "He greeted me like an old friend"

Rumours that Humphrey, the Downing Street cat, was put down have been quashed by the Prime Minister's office.

Last week, officials announced that Humphrey, a stray who wandered into Number 10 in 1989, was being pensioned off to a new home near London.

But a Conservative MP asked for proof that the moggy - given the official title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office - was still alive, and political journalists began pressing the point.

So, facing one of its toughest challenges since Labour's election on May 1, the Downing Street office smuggled the media to a secret location in south London.

[ image: The former
The former "Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Officer" is recovering from a kidney complaint
In his hide-out Humphrey was photographed, hostage-style, with copies of Monday's newspapers to prove he is alive.

His departure from Downing Street on November 13 "for medical reasons" sparked fears for his pelt amid rumours he had been expelled for leaving puddles on Tony Blair's rugs.

Journalists remembered Mrs Blair's alleged distaste for cats and, when Tory MP and animal lover Alan Clark demanded that he be produced, she was suspected of having blood on her hands.

Vets who advised a quieter life for Humphrey, who was recovering from a kidney problem, were blamed for his removal.

But after displaying evidence of Humphrey's happy retirement with an elderly couple, who will not be identified, a Downing Street spokesman was anxious to put the record straight.

[ image: A bemused Humphrey wonders what all the fuss is about]
A bemused Humphrey wonders what all the fuss is about
"One: the Blairs like cats. And two, the suggestion Cherie got rid of Humphrey is a vile slur," he said.

Humphrey, whose new owners say they have been untroubled by puddles, was said to have put on weight. He has found a new friend - a goldfish in a bowl which he watches with interest while flexing his claws.

The Blairs will get a new pet after it was announced a replacement Downing Street cat is to be acquired.

But officials pleaded with the public not to send kittens or photographs of potential Prime Ministerial cats to Number 10, where Mr Blair will make the final decision.

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