The British Museum is a public museum in Bloomsbury, London, dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Its permanent collection of eight million works is one of the most extensive in the world. It tells the story of human culture from its inception to the present day. The British Museum was the world’s first public national museum. But did you know who stood guard at the British Museum’s entrance?
Mike, a cat, stood guard at the British Museum’s entrance. He worked there for 20 years, gaining notoriety for his dislike of females and dogs, as well as allowing only certain people to feed him. Even after he retired, he would occasionally chase off dogs.
Who Found Mike the Cat?
In the spring of 1908, Black Jack, the Museum’s house cat, approached the Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities, Sir Ernest Wallis Budge and entered the room with a large object in his mouth, which he then dropped at the Keeper’s feet.
The object in question was a kitten named Mike. Mike began studying under Black Jack the following year, who taught the younger cat how to stalk pigeons by pointing like a dog. (Source: Purr-N-Fur)
What was Mike’s Role in the British Museum’s Security?
Mike the cat would go on to become one of the most famous cats in the Museum, forming a lifetime connection with Sir Ernest. Later, as he grew older, he made friends with the gatekeepers at the Museum’s main gate and began to frequent the lodge, where he was always welcomed, essentially giving him two homes.
He learned a strange ritual involving the numerous pigeons that hung about with the help of the house cat, which was regularly performed on Sunday mornings. Mike’s partner would gradually push the pigeons into a corner by pointing like a dog.
Each cat would capture one of the stunned birds and carry it uninjured into the house, where it would be taken by the housekeeper and rewarded with milk and meat.
The pigeons were placed in a separate room, fed corn and water, and then released via an open window once they had regained their equilibrium. Neither cat cared for a game with dirty, sooty feathers, preferring instead to devour the prepared meat given.
Mike began to enjoy living at the lodge as time went on, where he could come and go as he liked day or night, and where he could sleep on a special corner shelf away from draughts. But he kept patrolling the Museum, and the Keeper of the Mummified Cats made sure he was taken care of. This was even during the lean years of World War I, he made sure Mike didn’t go hungry.
Mike the cat lived a happy existence, receiving milk and scraps from the refreshment-room servers in the evenings and being frequently entertained in the homes of some of the local keepers. He, too, preferred to bless the Reading Room with his presence, as did his predecessor.