Chief Mouse Catcher at Southwark Cathedral, Doorkins Magnificat Laid to Rest

By Doug Williams
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Credit:  Bridget Davey
Credit: Bridget Davey
 
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If it’s true that cats have nine lives, as the popular myth suggests, Doorkins Magnificat must have come to the end of her “renewals,” so to speak, when she died just before Thanksgiving in the church she called home, the Southwark Cathedral in London, a glorious place that sits on the south bank of the Thames River.

 

The cat’s presence was a delight to church goers since she first wandered into the building 12 years ago, in 2008. The cathedral became the kitty’s home, and she made herself comfortable in plain, public view even when services were underway.

Doorkins Magnificat. Peter Trimming – CC BY 2.0
Doorkins Magnificat. Peter Trimming – CC BY 2.0

Tales abound of Doorkins making a cozy bed from the straw of a Nativity scene during Christmas, and even appearing in front of Queen Elizabeth in 2012 when the monarch visited. Apparently the feline was unimpressed by the sight of royalty, however, as she promptly went back to sleep, much to the amusement and delight of the Queen, onlookers reported.

 

Not much was known about Doorkins, as she was simply a stray kitty who turned up one day and decided the place would do nicely as a new home. Parishioners took great joy in witnessing her quiet antics during services and special events like the Queen’s visit.

The nave of Southwark Cathedral
The nave of Southwark Cathedral

A Twitter account in her name brought her wider fame, according to the cathedral’s Dean, Andrew Nunn. After Doorkins passed away in early October, Nunn took the opportunity during a virtual Thanksgiving service to speak fondly of the feline.

He recently told CNN, “She was enormously popular and had a massive Twitter following – and was also the focus of a lot of people’s visits to the cathedral.” Hardly the usual reason folks start going to church, but anything that gets them through the doors is viewed positively by all faiths, and clearly Doorkins was a big draw.

Perhaps because she had a difficult early “kittyhood” wandering the streets of London before the church took her in and fed and cared for her, Doorkins had some health problems last year, and became blind and deaf. So rather than leave her in the church, an official took her home and tended to her until she died in the early autumn.

Nunn felt talking about Doorkins during the Thanksgiving service was important, rather than letting parishioners cope silently with their grief over her death.

He spoke of her at length, about the joy she brought everyone who saw her stride across the altar during services, or splayed out napping across a pew.

The Southwark Cathedral and The Shard in London. Tristan Surtel – CC BY-SA 4.0
The Southwark Cathedral and The Shard in London. Tristan Surtel – CC BY-SA 4.0

But not everyone thought it appropriate for Nunn to have included Doorkins in his Thanksgiving comments; one church official said it was in poor taste, given that thousands of Londoners have died during the coronavirus and traditional funerals cannot be held to mourn them.

But Nunn insisted to CNN that he had “no regrets,” and thought saying nothing about the passing of the church’s prized pet would be unconscionable, considering the fondness folks had for the feline.

Church goers defended Nunn’s decision, many arguing that crying about the cat was in no way disrespectful to those who had lost loved ones to the virus.

One woman, who had in fact lost her mother to the deadly disease, said on social media that crying about Doorkins helped her cope with the loss of her mum. Nunn said that responses like hers were “heartwarming as well as emotional,” and that the kitty’s death acted as a kind of trigger. It allowed people to mourn not just for the cat, but for all the loss plaguing the U.K. at the moment because of COVID-19.

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Animals often wander into public spaces and become mascots, of a kind, to the people who frequent those spaces. Churches are symbols of safety, and for one lost and struggling little kitty more than a decade ago, it became more than a symbol. It became home.

 
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