Are Cats Good at Delivering Mail?

Poor postal carriers: Not only do dogs sometimes chase them, but in Liège, Belgium, they almost lost their jobs to cats. Though details are lacking, a few facts are known about the short-lived attempt to see whether felines could deliver the mail.

In 1876, the city of Liège, Belgium, briefly tried out a mail delivery system using 37 trained cats.
In 1876, the city of Liège, Belgium, briefly tried out a mail delivery system using 37 trained cats.

In 1876, a group known as the Belgian Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat gathered together 37 cats and trained them as postal carriers. They filled waterproof bags with letters addressed to the residence of the cat, tied the bags around the kitties' necks, and let them loose in the countryside of Liège. Every cat made its way back home -- thus delivering their mail -- within 24 hours, which the society hailed as a successful trial.

"Unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail-cats, the messages will be delivered with rapidity and safety," The New York Times wrote. Yet despite the supposed success, the cats never took over the postal routes, and mail went back to regular human delivery. It might simply have been that, as every cat owner knows, they are better at training us than we are at training them.

Working with cats:

  • The first cat in space was a French feline named Félicette, who flew on a rocket in October 1963; she returned safely via parachute.

  • The Kishi train station in Japan has been "managed" by a cat for years; the current "stationmaster" is named Nitama.

  • A cat named Stubbs was the mayor of the Alaskan town of Talkeetna for 20 years, winning several uncontested elections along the way.

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    • In 1876, the city of Liège, Belgium, briefly tried out a mail delivery system using 37 trained cats.
      In 1876, the city of Liège, Belgium, briefly tried out a mail delivery system using 37 trained cats.