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Cats As Messengers?

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This is one of the strangest cat facts I've ever dug up. We all know the ol' dog-chasing-mailman cliché, but what if I told you the mailman was… a cat?
According to an 1876 article in the New York Times, an organization known as the Belgian Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat once came up with the outlandish idea to use cats as messengers between villages.
The first step was to test whether these housecats could find their way back home from a strange location in the middle of nowhere. So three dozen cats (plus one more for safe measure, apparently, for a total of 37) were rounded up, placed into a big bag, and then trotted out on horseback for 20 miles into the Belgian countryside. Then they were released and left to their own devices.
Wouldn't you know, the first of the cats arrived back home in Liege, Belgium, five hours later. And within a day's time, every one of the cats had reportedly returned to their houses, looking by all accounts as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.
Based on these surprising results, the society hoped, somewhat illogically, that a regular postal system could be set up using cats to deliver messages between villages. It would be like carrier pigeons, but using cats instead, and the messages would be inserted into waterproof baggies tied to the cat's necks.
Did this plan ever come to fruition? Apparently not. And I don’t think anyone has ever been surprised that this idea was a big dud.
Then again, was the whole thing just a hoax?
Good question. I'm honestly not sure, but it's clear that The New York Times had a great deal of fun writing its tongue-in-cheek article. (The newspaper jokingly predicted a day when "swift and discreet" felines could be entrusted to relay messages even between lovers and their mistresses.)
Let's be grateful that we live in an age when the mail is not delivered by cats.
Don't get me wrong. I love my cat. But I'm not sure I'd trust a cat to deliver my rent check! Would you?
  • The New York Times, "Postal Cats," March 4, 1876. (Scroll all the way down to read the first page of the article.)
  • The Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, Washington), "Cats as Messengers," April 11, 1922.
Dave Baker is editor and publisher of Pets Adviser. Don’t miss more articles like this: Sign up for FREE updates (plus a special gift).
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