The resident cat at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, dubbed Lord Palmerston, the Chief Mouser, in reference to its mouse-catching duties, is to retire from diplomatic service, the FCO said on Friday.
Lord Palmerston, famed for regular territorial tiffs with neighbouring Downing Street mouse-catcher Larry, will see out his retirement in the English countryside, where he has been spending lockdown already at the home of a member of Foreign Office staff.
Both cats have their own social media profiles and are very popular with news photographers on Downing Street duties.
"In April 2016, a cat called Palmerston arrived from Battersea (dogs and cat shelter in London). I thought I was employing a mouser. What I got was a social media phenomenon, with 105,000 Twitter followers," said Sir Simon McDonald, the Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service at the FCO, announcing Palmerston's retirement.
"After four happy years, @Diplomog (Palmerston's Twitter handle) will retire: he's enjoyed lockdown life in the countryside so much, he's accepted an invitation to stay. Everyone at the Foreign Office will miss him (our mice less so). We wish him a long & happy retirement, said McDonald in a Twitter statement."
McDonald's own term as the head of FCO also comes to a close this month as the department is merged with the Department for International Development to create the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office from September 1.
Sir Philip Barton, the current British High Commissioner to India, will be taking charge as the Permanent Under-Secretary of the new ministry.
In keeping with the light-hearted vein of the cat news from FCO, Palmerston's Twitter account also posted a formal retirement letter addressed to McDonald.
The Foreign Office official writing as Palmerston notes that after four years, he wishes to spend more time, relaxing away from the limelight, and that he has found life away from the front line "queiter and easier."
"The spread of coronavirus around the world has caused many, like me, to begin working from home. I assure you I have been as diligent as ever, my diplomatic craft has had positive results," notes the letter.
"Although I am ending my formal role here, I will always be an ambassador for the UK and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office," it concludes.
Palmerston was chosen from hundreds of other rescued cats at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south west London to tackle errant mice at the FCO building on King Charles Street, next door to Downing Street.
"As one of our most illustrious former residents, Palmerston has been a fantastic ambassador for Battersea. During his tenure as Chief Mouser at the Foreign Office, he has perfectly demonstrated how incredible rescue cats are, as well as the joy that they can bring to people when given a second chance," said Battersea's Head of Catteries, Lindsey Quinlan.
"We have loved following his prolific career over the past four years and we look forward to hearing about his future adventures, as he swaps international diplomacy for a life of leisure. On behalf of all the staff, cats and even the dogs at Battersea, we wish Palmerston all the very best with this next chapter of his nine lives," Quinlan said.