Meet the cats of the National Trust
Many of the National Trust’s former residents were cat lovers and today a number of our places are still home to feline friends. In her new book, Cats of the National Trust, author Amy Feldman has uncovered the heart-warming stories of these cats and their owners. From Scrap, a midnight black cat with a fondness for cake, to Rubeus, a boisterous Bengal who prowls the gardens at Cotehele, discover the stories of some of the cats featured in the book.
The hungry gardener: Scrap
The gardeners who grow the produce in Attingham Park’s 18th-century Walled Garden have an unusual member of their team: midnight-black Scrap. Born to a feral cat in Attingham’s orchard, Scrap has lived in the Walled Garden for most of her life and takes her role of protecting the produce from mice and rabbits very seriously.
She also finds time to entertain visitors, arranging herself on the bench in front of the garden bothy to catch their attention during summer, while in winter she heads inside to warm herself in front of the crackling log burner, or relaxes in pools of sunlight in the glasshouses.
It’s a good thing Scrap is good at her job because she’s not perfectly behaved. A typical National Trust employee, she has a penchant for cakes and biscuits, and will try to steal them from volunteers at break time.
The boisterous Bengal: Rubeus
Rubeus is the resident cat at Cotehele, a Tudor house and garden in Cornwall. In case you were wondering, Rubeus is indeed named after the gamekeeper in the Harry Potter stories, Rubeus Hagrid.
But while Hagrid was an animal-lover, ruthless Rubeus prefers to hunt them. The brown-spotted Bengal also likes to hunt human food and one of his favourite pastimes is stealing from visitors in the Barn Restaurant.
When he’s not seeking out something to eat, Rubeus might be found following visitors around the garden, snoozing on a blanket in reception or photobombing.
The celebrities: Craig and Committee
Gunby Hall's two feline residents are the rock stars of the heritage cat world. They’ve appeared on television, in national magazines and newspapers and have even been mentioned on BBC Radio 4.
Long-haired Craig and tortoiseshell Committee have been National Trust cats since 2006. When their former owners moved out of their house on the estate, the furry duo didn’t want to leave, and decided instead to make themselves at home in Gunby’s main house. They soon became valued members of staff with Craig patrolling the grounds and Committee helping on garden tours.
In recent years the pair, who are looked after by Clive Ironmonger and the gardening team, have taken a step back from estate duties. Instead they have embraced social media, happily posing for photographs around their beloved estate.
The high and mighty: Samson
Don’t be surprised if you suddenly see a gargoyle move on the exterior of Knightshayes - it’s probably just Samson. The Maine Coon can often be found lounging on the Victorian Gothic house’s grotesques, or wandering the roof.
According to his owner, Visitor Experience Manager Alice Morgan-Brown, although Samson is twice the size of the average cat, he ‘has about half the confidence and a quarter of the common sense’.
This, combined with his love of heights, can have interesting results and he has found himself stuck on the roof a number of times.
The happy huntress: Ariel
The first thing you should know about Ariel is that she isn’t named after a Disney princess, so don’t expect her to act like one. Ariel is Hebrew for ‘Lion of God’ – much more fitting for this feisty feline. This spirited tabby moved to Coughton in September 2011 as a seven-week-old kitten, and she has grown up exploring its grounds.
Although her favourite spot is the Cain Brook, where long grasses provide the perfect mouse-hunting ground, Ariel is known to explore far and wide. She wanders the fern-lined paths in the bog garden, stalks her human family as they walk around the property, and enjoys charging over the lawns and up trees.
She’s also a skilled hunter, which is appreciated by Coughton’s gardeners. But energetic Ariel isn’t always on the go. In winter she’s just as happy lounging in front of the blazing open fire.
The aristo-cats: The Peckovers’ cats and Algernon
In a sheltered spot of Peckover House and Garden in Cambridgeshire is a small graveyard. Here lie Bijou, Zeta, Angel, Pharos, Ginger and Marmie, the beloved cats of the Peckover family.
Today Peckover is home to Algernon, or Algie. This thick-coated feline is named after Algernon Peckover, one of two brothers who helped develop much of the surrounding area.
Algie is a cuddle-seeker and will climb the gardeners’ legs or sit on their laps while they’re working in search of attention. But he also has a surprising nemesis; blackbirds. The birds are completely unafraid of him, and he sometimes has to have a minder to stop them tucking into his dinner.
Cats in our art and collections
From portraits to objets d'art, discover our new book's captivating cats like Psyche the Persian painted by Sartorius in 1787.
Bastet, seen here, was the Ancient Egyptian goddess of domesticity, fertility and cats. This ancient object dates from the 1st millenium BC.
Animals performing human tasks was a popular theme in 17th-century art. Here, cats, birds and monkeys are shown reading and making music.
Feline representations are rare in Roman art, making this object of a cat clawing a snake unique in surviving classical sculpture.
Charles Paget Wade founded Snowshill Manor, amassing a collection of over 20,000 objects, including his wistful-looking wooden 'pet' cat.