A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Prime Minister “Stole My Aunt’s Cat” Hoax

Cats may have nine lives, but this story has at least three … so far!

Larry in one of his official poses at the Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street, London. (All photos credit Carl Court, WPA Pool)

Larry the cat made headlines in the U.K. last week when he was adopted from London’s renowned Battersea Dogs and Cats Home by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Then he made headlines a second time when a man claimed that the P.M. had “taken” his aunt’s cat and said he had launched a campaign on Facebook to get him back. Tim Sutcliffe said “Larry” was in fact “Jo”, and that Jo belongs to his Aunt Margaret.

According to Sutcliffe, Larry/Jo had disappeared from his Aunt Margaret’s home last October, and Aunt Margaret was devastated by the loss.

Sutcliffe said he had started a Facebook page to campaign for the cat’s safe return to his aunt, who lives in Bermondsey, London, and that hundreds of people had joined the Facebook group, saying they’d e-mailed the Prime Minister demanding his return.

He added that Aunt Margaret had also posted a message on his Facebook page, saying:

“I still can’t believe that my Jo has ended up being taken into Downing Street,” she writes. “I nearly died when I saw him in the papers. I’ve just found some of his cat hair on the sofa, so we can prove it’s Jo with a DNA test if we have to.”
The story was reported in most of the major U.K. newspapers … and proceeded to go viral around the world.

It was a fun story, so, here at Zoe, we checked it out ourselves. Our webmaster, Ingrid, checked out Tim Sutcliffe’s Facebook page, only to discover that it doesn’t exist. There’s no Tim Sutcliffe with an Aunt Margaret and a cat.

And now, in the third set of headlines that Larry the cat has made, it turns out that the entire story was a hoax. “Tim Sutcliffe” was the creation of Chris Atkins, an independent filmmaker, who timed it to coincide with the launching of his new media watchdog site, Churnalism.com. Atkins says he wanted to demonstrate how often journalists fail to check out stories.

Larry the cat, meanwhile, is doing just fine at Number Ten, Downing Street. And there’s been no comment from the Prime Minister or his Secretary of Feline Affairs.