Famed Ottawa cathouse is no more

The Canadian Parliamentary Cats being cared for by René Chartrand at their shelter. Photo: Montrealais, CC some rights reserved

For decades a tour of the grounds surrounding Parliament Hill included an off-beat surprise: a cat sanctuary.

Cat lovers feeding strays isn’t very unusual. But seeing that flourish on the grounds of a national capital did seem quaintly quirky.

Now the Ottawa Citizen’s Robert Sibley reports it’s over.

Successful spay/neuter efforts curbed the resident population. With only a few cats left, it was decided to adopt them out and end the effort. This was the wish of the volunteers who had tended the cat population in cooperation with the Public Works Department that maintains the grounds. As Sibley writes:

Perhaps not surprisingly, the sanctuary became a favourite Ottawa tourist site. Busloads of Japanese tourists crowded around the site during the summer. It was posted on the federal government’s website. Even the National Capital Commission gave it a mention in its Discover-the-Hill brochure.

Here’s a page about the closure from the “A Treasure to Explore” section of the Public Works website.

Naturally, in this day and age, the cats of Parliament Hill also have their own Facebook page.

While researching the Parliament Hill cats I ran across another amusing article about the “Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office”. (That’s in the U.K. and has nothing to do with the Ottawa cat sanctuary.)

According to Wikipedia: “There has been a resident Treasury or Downing Street cat employed as a mouser and pet since the reign of Henry VIII, when Cardinal Wolsey placed his cat by his side while acting in his judicial capacity as Lord Chancellor, an office he assumed in 1515.

The post is currently held by “Larry”.

Did Wolsey’s cat show up in Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”? I can’t recall.

I gather the cat sanctuary buildings of Parliament Hill on Ottawa will be dismantled later. Perhaps you can still see them when NCPR’s bus to Ottawa drops everyone off nearby on Feb 2nd. (If you aren’t too busy skating, eating and taking in other Winterlude sights, that is.)

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2 Comments on “Famed Ottawa cathouse is no more”

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry?!? Does he blog?

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  2. Robin McClellan says:

    I am touched by this story because, despite the beauty of the institution, it had finished its work. Too many institutions finish their work but, for understandable and often laudable reasons, find new work to continue on with. Life is about birth and death. The best we as humans can ask for is a satisfying life and a compressed morbidity. I would love to see more institutions learn to die with dignity rather than stay alive beyond their purpose.

    Here’s to the Cats of Parliament Hill, may their memory live on!

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