Belgium Once Used Cats To Deliver Mail

During tough times, many have had to get creative to make ends meet. Some people find themselves working jobs that are dangerous, difficult, or simply roles they never imagined themselves doing, but that's just the way things go sometimes. However, if you ever start brooding over the fact that you might not be cut out for a certain position or that you're falling short, find consolation in the fact that even cats were once tasked with a job that they weren't cut out for.

A city in Belgium once employed its local feline population to do a human's job, according to the Western Argus, an Australian newspaper. During the 1870s in the city of Liège, officials decided to use cats for a job they otherwise had to pay humans to do, in a strange gesture of practicality. While it didn't work out as planned, there was a short window of time when cats were actually delivering mail.

Why Belgian officials thought cats could deliver mail

It's inherently comical to imagine a cat bringing your morning mail, but the timeless stereotype of mailmen being chased down by dogs adds a laughable irony into the equation. "Unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail-cats, the messages will be delivered with rapidity and safety," A New York Times clipping wrote that year. Carrier pigeons are one thing, but this is a whole other animal. Literally.

The Belgian Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat first posed the idea, as BBC reports. The group postulated that cats had an instinctive knack for direction and agility that factored perfectly into the industry of post. Thirty seven cats were thus commissioned to carry out the task, though it wasn't long before the troupe of felines made it very clear that they had better things to do than deliver pesky letters for pesky humans.

Cats as mail carriers? Scratch that

The trial run took place shortly after the idea was proposed and the 37 cats were taken a few miles outside of Liège with parcels attached to their necks. The belief was that because of their penchant for memory and geography, the cats would successfully return to their respective homes along with the notes intended for the recipients. However, it took much longer for the kitties to arrive at their destinations than expected, and the enterprise was ultimately scrapped, according to BBC. There is no official timeline on record that reports how long cats were delivering mail in Belgium, so it could have gone on longer than we think.

Similarly, cats were employed by a London-based post office around the same time and were granted a position more suited to their nature — catching and killing mice. The cats were even paid a weekly shilling and given a six-month probationary period for their devotion to the job (per BBC).