British parliament catfight over mouse in the House

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's Houses of Parliament desperately need some feline protection to tackle the growing mouse population - but the job would require an impractical number of cats prowling the corridors of power.

A study found that due to the size of parliament, one or two cats would not be enough, while a "herd of cats" running wild would be unmanageable, lawmaker John Thurso reported to the lower House of Commons on Thursday.

The cat plan has been given "full and proper consideration" by the authorities, he announced, but there were "very clear practical and technical difficulties" with the idea.

MP Anne McIntosh has led the calls for parliament to take rescue cats from a nearby London shelter to deal with the mice problem once and for all.

"The mice population is spiralling out of control - particularly in areas where food is being prepared, which obviously poses a clear health hazard," she protested.

If parliament could not have resident cats, she floated the possibility of having one unleashed in the evenings to prowl round the building.

"One would think it would be perfectly sensible to introduce a cat to keep the mouse population down," she said.

But Thurso said there would still be problems.

"Given the scale and size of the estate it would be necessary to have a great number of cats to make any real impact. Having a herd of cats on the parliamentary estate would present a number of difficulties," he said.

"Herding cats is quite difficult," he added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron brought a rescue cat called Larry into Downing Street in 2011 after a rat was spotted in two television news bulletins scurrying around outside the famous black door of the prime minister's residence.

However, Larry's efficiency has been called into question. Downing Street says the nation sends him daily gifts and treats but he spends much of his time "testing antique furniture for napping quality".

There have been resident mice-fighting cats in Downing Street since the 1920s. Some have even been given the title of "chief mouser to the Cabinet Office" and put on the state payroll.

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