U.K. press purrs over Baird's 'Thatcher dead' text

The British press is having a laugh at Canada's expense over a text message about the loss of a pet cat that led to erroneous rumours at a Toronto gala about the death of Margaret Thatcher.

The British press had a laugh at Canada's expense on Friday over a text message lamenting the loss of a beloved pet that led to erroneous rumours at a Toronto gala about the death of former British leader Margaret Thatcher.

The BBC, Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph all reported on Friday about Tuesday's incident, in which federal Transport Minister John Baird reportedly sent a text reading "Thatcher has died" — a reference, it turns out, to his 16-year-old cat.

The message reportedly spread like wildfire Tuesday night among the 1,700 attendees at a function in Toronto paying tribute to Canada's military.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aide Dimitri Soudas, back in Ottawa, was reportedly dispatched to confirm the news and to begin preparing an official statement mourning the death of the Iron Lady, according to The Canadian Press.

When Soudas contacted Buckingham Palace and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office, he discovered that the 84-year-old Thatcher was very much alive.

"How a text message caused diplomatic panic," read the headline on the Guardian. "Red faces in Canada this morning," chimed in Telegraph columnist Lucy Jones.

About 20 minutes after the rumour started, a corrective message circulated among the diners at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Baird reportedly named his pet after the former British Tory prime minister, who is an icon to many in Harper's Conservative Party.

But Soudas was apparently less enamoured with the cat in question, and was said to have quipped: "If the cat wasn't dead, I'd have killed it by now."

Baird's spokesman, Chris Day, told CBC News that Baird "told the news of his cat passing to a couple of close friends. What others did with that information, you'd have to ask them."

"It's a private matter," Day added.

With files from The Canadian Press