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Church Cats 6
Between Christmas and New Year of 2008 a tabby cat turned up unexpectedly at Southwark Cathedral, near London Bridge on the south bank of the river Thames, looking for some food and warmth. This seemed like a heaven-sent opportunity, because for some time there had been a growing problem with increasing numbers of church mice in and around the building, and members of the cathedral staff had been actively considering taking on a cat. Just at the right moment, as enquiries were going to be initiated one appeared! As the doors were being opened one cold morning he appeared from beneath a bush near the main doors, and made it quite clear he would be pleased to 'make friends'. It was at first thought that he belonged to one of the nearby residents; but as time went on and he appeared each morning to greet the vergers, it seemed he had adopted the churchyard as his new home. As a result he is now fed regularly by the vergers and, although not baptised, has been given the splendid name of Doorkins Magnificat because he hangs around the door in the mornings waiting for them to arrive and let him in.
He has an uncanny sense of timing and is there without fail each morning, awaiting his breakfast ('Felix' brand is a favourite, as is 'Sheba'). If he's particularly hungry he will wait by the door again for something further to eat in the evening, when the cathedral is locked up, but not every day. Regular donations of food are made and so he always has plenty available, and parishioners and visitors frequently enquire after him. Doorkins seems at home now within the cathedral community, loves to lie on the grass in the churchyard when it's warm enough, and enjoys the attention of office workers who come to eat their lunch on the green space. At the moment he finds the hustle and bustle of visitors inside the cathedral a bit daunting, so 'prefers to say his prayers in the morning, when there are fewer visitors around', says head verger Paul Timms.
It turns out that Doorkins is not unknown in the slightly wider community, and spends some time at the nearby Borough Market, where he has been seen hunting mice. At night he currently (2009) sleeps if he is not outside at the foot of the stairs to the cathedral boiler-house, but it's hoped he can be encouraged to spend more time indoors as the colder winter nights approach. Failing that, a small hole will be cut in the boiler-house door and a cat-bed placed inside, so that he can be snug and warm in winter.
Warm thanks to the head verger of Southwark Cathedral, Paul Timms, for supplying much of the information and photos. With our thanks also to other sources: immediately above, 'Forever Wiser' at Flickr (right) and Steven Craven at Geograph (left); and for the main title image, 'thisisfurious' at Flickr.
The following additional images from April 2011 of Doorkins making full use of the Bishop's Throne are supplied by Ruth from her Aimless Scribblings blog, to whom many thanks.
Wells, in Somerset, south-west England, is England's smallest cathedral city, and its fine cathedral is especially noted for its music. There is a resident red tabby cat there, called Louis, who has been there for some time and is known and loved by visitors and cathedral personnel alike. In warm weather he will probably be found outside in the cathedral grounds; in winter he prefers to remain in the warm cathedral interior. Two favourite spots are by a radiator in the north nave, or on a special chair he has made his own in the Sugar Chantry.
Head virger Simon Rose says that Louis mostly likes to ignore people, the more the better, and if there are several hundred or even a thousand or so people at a service he will walk up the aisle and sit at the front watching them or washing himself! Louis is popular and all kinds of merchandise with his image are available in the cathedral shop.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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