UK Foreign Office’s Chief mouser with 100K twitter followers retires
PIC: ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP)

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.

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