Cats on Stamps
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From the Archive
November/December 2001 Review
A substantial selection of cat stamps has come my way since the last review. Pride of place goes to a 2000 set of four and a miniature sheet (MS) from the African island republic of St Thomas and Prince, featuring Louis Wain-type cat paintings; whether or not these are genuinely Wain's work, I don't know, but nothing like them has appeared on stamps before. The stamps come in blocks with cat heads in the margins, and there are several colours for the margin backgrounds. Great fun; my only criticism (if indeed they are Wain paintings) is that no titles are given, in any language, which seems a pity.
Two more new 'cat-stamp countries' have joined the ranks recently. Fiji has a set of four for its SPCA organisation, with Asian and Polynesian children holding cats and dogs (left): slight stereotyping here, with the boys having dogs and the girls cats, but they're nice stamps. El Salvador, in Central America, issued a set of four under the title Friendship; there are two pairs of dogs, a pair of budgerigars and a black cat reclining between the front legs of a rather long-suffering-looking dog (above right).
Cats and dogs share the honours again in an attractive, if expensive, group of six from the Netherlands Antilles. A British Shorthair is seen having a great time with a ball of wool (left); then there are a Burmese and kits, a shaded golden Persian, an American Wirehair kitten with a beagle, an appealing retriever with a bone, and a German Shepherd dog. Aruba is also part of the Netherlands Antilles, but issues its own stamps. In January it introduced part 3 of a new series of definitives, and that features pets. The 5c. value has an orange-and-white moggy (above right), while others have a tortoise, a rabbit and a Caribbean parakeet.
Remaining in the Caribbean, still another 'cats and dogs' set has arrived, this one from Cuba. Each of the five stamps includes several animals: two have dogs only, two have both cats and dogs, and one bearing the logo of the Association of Cat Lovers has just cats. I liked this set.
The former British Guiana, now Guyana, is also near the Caribbean and has been a prolific source of cat stamps in the past; this year has been no exception. Earlier in the year there was a sheetlet of eight portraits bearing the Hong Kong 2000 exhibition logo, as well as two singles and an MS (a rather plump Birman! left), all under the title Living in a Purr-fect World. A second part with the same components, entitled Cats in the Caribbean, has another selection of the animals displayed on mostly lush, green, jungle-like backgrounds, as befits the title (above right).
Finally from this part of the world, there is a colourful block of six and an MS with appealing portraits of named cats Thor, Spike (pictured), Jag and the like. I believe these are cats that have appeared in films, and a similar group of dogs has also been issued.
Moving now to the Far East, there is a further set of four amusing nursery rhymes illustrated on a set from Taiwan, one of which has a cat dancing among the flowers with two little girls (left). Meanwhile Japan produced numerous elaborate sheetlets in connection with the millennium, but now seems to be starting a new series called World Heritage. The first sheetlet of eight depicts buildings and details from seventeenth-century Japanese temples, with one stamp (right) showing a carved black-and-white cat, probably on a roof beam.
Europe has held its own with cat stamps, starting in February when France marked its Stamp Festival with a single item showing cartoon character Gaston Lagaffe, who is joined by (I presume) his cat. The same stamps, and some other characters, are on an MS, and there is a booklet of eight with a further picture on the cover.
Albania has not included cats on its stamps for many years, but that has been put right by a block of four showing a dog, a horse, a mule (I think) and a traditional Siamese cat. The same handsome cat appears on the accompanying MS.
Every year Switzerland issues a set of Pro Juventute stamps ('For Youth'); in 2000 it comprised four showing scenes from the children's tale Little Albert. You have to look quite hard, but on the one showing Santa and his assistant on a sleigh, a black cat is greeting Albert in the background.
The Czech Republic has another cat on a single greetings stamp, a little hard to describe: it's holding a rose in its mouth, and a kitten in its paw and has what seem to be organ pipes and a little keyboard where its stomach should be! There is a booklet containing five of the stamps and with the same, rather puzzling figure on the cover.
An interesting stamp from Latvia has a sharply dressed cat puffing away at a pipe while surveying, with a rather wistful expression, what appears to be a collection of sacks in a shed. This celebrates the Latvian writer Karlis Skalbe and illustrates a story called Puss's Water Mill; this is a lengthy tale that I will try to summarise on this website in due course. A booklet containing six of these stamps was produced for the Belgica 2001 exhibition.
Finally this time there are 'bogus' sheetlets of cat labels bearing the names of Afghanistan (nine) and Guinea-Bissau (six). The former, especially, is attractive, but genuine postage stamps they are not.
As you read this, Christmas will be approaching, so I will close by offering Season's Greetings to all.
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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