Meet the cats of Canterbury Cathedral


Editor's Picks
12 April 2022
We head to a world-famous place of worship that puts the ‘cat’ in cathedral!

Having stood proudly in the south east of England for 1,400 years, Canterbury Cathedral attracts visitors from all around the world. It has an incredibly rich history, as it was founded in about 600AD by St Augustine and was built in stone by the Normans. It even had one of medieval Britain’s first running water supplies — created by Prior Wibert in circa 1165 — which flushed the monks’ toilets.

The cathedral was nearly completely destroyed by a fire in 1174 and was rebuilt as the first Gothic building in England. In more recent history, the cathedral survived WWII bombings and remains a working church to this day, with at least three services every day. And if all of this incredible history isn’t enough, the fact it is home to three resident cats should make it well worth a visit. 

Leo, Tiger, and Lilly live at this historic place of worship and these adorable cats have been known to make headline news!  

Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, with Tiger.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2020, when the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, was conducting a virtual sermon from the gardens of the cathedral, cheeky Lilly decided that was the time for her to steal the limelight. As the Very Reverend Dr Willis continued the service, Lilly strolled into shot and jumped on to the picnic table beside him. She then helped herself to the jug of milk on the table which was accompanying Dr Willis’s tea. The clergyman took his gatecrasher’s appearance in his stride. 

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Then there’s Leo, who first gained fame when he wandered into the cathedral and disappeared beneath Dr Willis’s robes during a sermon, and then also gatecrashed one of Dr Willis’s online sermons and stole one of his pancakes during a Shrove Tuesday service!

Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, with Tiger.

Tiger has also had his time in the spotlight and has even made his voice heard as he perched himself on Dr Willis’s lap during another online sermon and was heard purring over the Dean’s microphone — even giving it a cheeky nibble!

The cats can mostly be found roaming the cathedral’s stunning gardens and making friends with visitors. They’ll often feature in tour talks and you can find all manner of feline-inspired mementos in the gift shop. A book has even been written about the cathedral’s long history of feline residents: ‘Cathedral Cats by Richard Surman’
— which is available to buy on the cathedral’s website at

So, if you haven’t yet been to Canterbury Cathedral, you now have two vital reasons to do so: culture and cats!