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When a cheeky cat jumped on the table for the first time during the online prayers at Canterbury Cathedral, the staff almost slapped its paws as it was taken.
But a year later, the three mischievous cats who live at the 1,400-year-old place of worship have turned out to be the purring pandemic stars.
Leo, Tiger, and the “little cat lady” Lilly spend their days moving amiably around the cathedral gardens – and sometimes disrupting the daily sermons that are broadcast online to a global audience.
10-year-old Leo first gained global fame when he came into view on camera before disappearing under the robes of the Dean of Canterbury last May.
Not to be outdone, his furry comrade Tiger, 14, showed his hungry side, stealing milk with a paw last year and pinching a whole pancake on Pancake Day last month.
His Shrove Tuesday performance was all the more poignant when he recently overcome the loss of a paw to cancer.
“Cats have a will of their own,” Canterbury Dean Robert Willis told the PA news agency.
“People, in my opinion, were happy because things were going on that were unplanned and they started getting to know all the creatures we have in these gardens.”
It may be that viewers struggling with their own pet-related zoom issues sympathized with the regular unplanned contributions to the dean’s footage.
“The real explosion, I think, came when Leo went into my cassock that morning and people thought it was weird,” he added.
Perhaps the least known of the three is petite 14-year-old Lilly, Leo’s mother.
“She is a real woman, she lives for admiration and she comes to us when she wants,” said the dean happily.
“Lilly is black and white what Americans call a tuxedo cat, and as soon as you mention her name she reappears.”
In addition to the trio of cats, the cathedral is home to pigs, bees, turkeys and roosters, one of which moved into the spotlight last year.
Leo, one of three mischievous cats who live in Canterbury Cathedral, who keep disrupting video prayers and has become a social media hit (Gareth Fuller / PA)
The animals were featured in the dean’s daily morning prayer services, which have been shown online since the lockdown in March 2020.
“We didn’t have a cathedral to go into and we were locked in our homes,” he told PA.
“So we decided to just come out in the garden and film, and it was a quick decision, and that’s how we started filming.
“First we did it for our own church, and then we found people from all over the world watching … people who tuned in as the day broke across the Atlantic or across America in the Pacific … or the next morning in the Philippines. “
Every morning the dean and his team choose a location in the cathedral to film the day’s prayers – sometimes to tie in with a special occasion.
Looking ahead, the cathedral is preparing to welcome members of its ward again after the government released its roadmap for lifting restrictions.
The dean told PA: “There will be an opportunity to thank you for being together again.
“I am sure there will also be an occasion when we will gather to lament the tragedies that took place in the lockdown and those who lost their lives, and in this nation the national Health service hurray to give all of these things. ”
When asked if returning to personal service would put an end to online prayers, Dr. Willis that some would go on, no doubt also because of the fame of Leo, Tiger, and Lilly.