Cats on Stamps
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From the Archive
July/August 2001 Review
In recent years it seems to have become something of a fashion for some sets to be followed not long afterwards by a 'Part 2', and that is the case with both the Gambia and Sierra Leone issues I mentioned last time. The Gambia sheetlet of eight follows the previous attractive design, and has an outline map of Asia. The accompanying MS, with its Egyptian head, is worth illustrating.
Sierra Leone gave us a further sheetlet of six (this time the cats look as though they're in a sort of 'dry gulch') and two single stamps that I rather like: one of a tabby watching a butterfly (right) and one of a Burmese.
Both Grenada, in the West Indies, and its associated Grenadines islands released cat sets last summer, but they took a while to reach the market here. The Grenada group I find fairly routine, with the common format of two singles, a sheetlet of six cats on a landscape background, and a grey-and-white Scottish Fold sitting in a tree (above right). However, the Grenadines set is quite striking, with liberal use of a royal purple background for three singles and a compact sheetlet of six (above left). The latter includes a California Spangled cat, an animal we don't see often either on stamps or in the flesh.
Also from the West Indies, the Turks and Caicos islands issued a set of eye-catching cat stamps last November, once again a sheetlet of six and an MS. The stamps feature portraits on an emerald-green background with surrounding margins of plum colour: quite a contrast. The MS shows a pair of Devon Rex cats.
There are two more all-cats sets this time; well, one is actually cats and dogs on the same stamps, from the West African country of Mauritania. Having previously produced just one cat on a stamp, the country has come up with a winner this time. On the stamps the cats are seen in the foreground of the design, with the dogs behind. However, the same strip of three appears also on a souvenir sheet, with a desert scene and more cats and dogs in the background, and here the dogs are to the fore. There is then another MS with a fourth, different cat stamp and further cats and dogs in the margin. This is a splendid set, quite similar to the Guinea one I reviewed earlier in the year.
Cambodia has issued cat stamps during each of the past several years; the 2000 ones are lovely. Real-life poses are shown on a set of six, with each stamp carrying also a miniature painting or sculpture that includes cats. One is the Scandinavian goddess Freya in her cat-drawn chariot. The MS provides a pièce de resistance, showing a tabby against an Egyptian mural background that includes a mummified cat.
Christmas 2000 gave us a couple of seasonal offerings. Pantomime is apparently alive and well on the isolated South Atlantic island of St Helena, and a colourful strip of five shows well-known favourites including Puss in Boots (left). Incidentally, Puss in Boots is pictured again on a little sheetlet of three stamps and three related labels from Bulgaria (right); this came out in May 2000, but I found it difficult to locate and have only just received a copy. (Read the Tale of Puss in Boots.)
The second Christmas cat you have to look quite hard for! He is amongst the characters lining the margin (see enlarged detail, right) of a souvenir sheet from Iceland containing their two Christmas stamps showing trolls (or are they goblins? see left) The cat is only on the souvenir sheet and not on the individual stamps.
Also issued last December was a fine set of four from the Bahamas a country 'first' for cat stamps. This very well-presented set is dedicated to the Bahamas Humane Society. The cat, a tabby, is prominent on the stamp depicting fundraising, with a lady sitting at a souvenir stall behind it. Pets on other stamps are dogs, a parrot and a goat the last two make a change!
I think my favourite of all this month's new stamps is one from a Czech Republic pair of millennium stamps. A plump cat is viewing, with obvious relish, a plate on which is lying an apprehensive mouse with the legend '2000' on its side. The second stamp of the pair has a magician pulling a '2001' rabbit out of a hat.
We've had cat stamps in Great Britain as well, of course. I wonder what readers thought of our first 'real' self-adhesives (left). Although the cats were welcome, naturally, the phrase 'could have done better' comes to mind especially as I gather that these are not British cats and the photos were taken by people from other countries. Are we short of good cat photos in the UK? Surely not; just look at The Cat magazine, for a start! But the 'weather' stamps were something else again; I find them by far the best since those peculiar millennium issues, and the 'raining cats and dogs' one was excellent (above right).
Another country new to the cat-stamp scene is the Federated States of Micronesia, Pacific islands forming part of the Caroline group. This issue, called Cats of 2000, actually bears the date 1999 at the bottom, but did not reach these shores until quite recently. There are numerous different breeds of cat on the sheetlet of six, sitting on their shadows, it seems. The MS has a calico cat eyeing a bird with interest! and an inscription: 'Domesticated hunter for at least 5,000 years, the cat's usefulness has been proven in destroying such pests as mice and rats. Today, domestic cats still retain this predatorial tendency.' There are pawprints on both parts of the set; it's all a bit different, and I like it.
In June 2000 Slovakia issued a single stamp for UNICEF, with a child's drawing of various animals (left), one being a striped domestic cat (probably!). The Ukraine came up with a strip of three colourful cartoon scenes, of which one shows a very 'hairy' cat apparently conversing with a rooster (right). It is a farmyard morality tale involving the cat having saved the rooster from the attentions of some foxes, with the cat telling the bird in no uncertain terms, 'You listen to me in future.'
Japan celebrated the Osaka Folk Festival with a stamp showing two people in cat costumes (left); and supposedly from Angola was a delightful group of three souvenir sheets, each having a cat stamp set in a beautiful portrait as background (right). There is a Scout emblem on each, and I'm always suspicious of the genuineness of items carrying this logo for no apparent reason.
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Our featured feline Chico (see head of the page) belonged to a lady in the Swiss village of Chesières who lived near the ground-floor office where I worked in the mid-1980s. Every so often he liked to pass by, spend a little time with us and check we were doing everything properly.
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Article written and first published during 2001, and reproduced here by the author from June 2005