For more of all things London history, sign up for our new (free) newsletter and community: Londonist: Time Machine.
When you're an entry in a book called 100 Cats who Changed Civilisation, you know you've secured acclaimed feline status.
Such is the legend of Tiddles, the tabby-and-white cat who lived in the ladies' toilets at Paddington station almost his whole life, and grew to such a size — both in reputation and physicality — that he had adoring fans around the world, not to mention scooped the title of London Fat Cat Champion 1982.
It was one morning in 1970 that the then-tiny kitten scampered into the ladies' at Paddington, and into attendant June Watson's life. There and then she adopted him, naming him Tiddles and giving him something to eat. It's said that Tiddles's penchant for fine food was piqued when June started feeding him cheese from her sandwiches; certainly it wasn't long before he'd acquired an expensive taste for steak, chicken, kidneys and rabbit. The spoiled moggy — who slept in the station in an old sleeping bag — even had his own personal fridge.
Word soon got around about Paddington's station cat, who became a London tourist attraction in his own right. Visitors to the ladies' continuously doted on him (and fed him up even more) while fan mail for Tiddles flooded in from all corners of the world (some of it containing more food) — hundreds of letters and postcards pinned up on the toilet tiles. The five female toilet attendants working at Paddington played up Tiddles's celebrity; during the 1981 Royal Wedding, they decorated his basket with Union Flags and a cutout Charles and Di. Women who'd seen Tiddles in the flesh fur wrote into national newspapers to say what they'd witnessed: Mrs Joyce Miners from Plymouth told the Daily Mirror: "I was told to make sure I visited the ladies' loo at Paddington station too see the cat that lives there. I did — and saw the biggest cat I have ever seen."
Indeed, in his 13 spoiled years, Tiddles grew and grew and grew. In the same year that he triumphed as London Fat Cat Champion, he weighed an impressive 30 pounds (14 kg), and according to 100 Cats who Changed Civilisation, resembled a 'beach ball made of fur'. Catching mice was never his strong suit, but by now he was so girthy that he couldn't feel his way through a space like most cats can. He was the Elvis of the station cat world.
Sadly, not long after he'd featured in a two-page Daily Mirror spread, poor Tiddles had to be put down — although especially for a cat who got so little exercise, he'd had an impressive innings. He wouldn't be forgotten either; in 1987 — a number of years after he died — people were writing in to the Mirror to ask if Tiddles was still alive. Paddington Bear might be the furry celeb of Paddington station now, but for well over a decade, it was all about a cat called Tiddles.