[The journalist James] Bone described on one occasion how a desperate contributor of 'pars', small fillers for the popular press, went to send a letter from a post office and noticed that the pet cat on the counter was sitting with its tongue out. On a whim, he gave it his stamp to lick which it did. The next day a very short story appeared under the headline: Post Office novelty — Stamp-licking cat of Charing Cross'.
Like the best April Fool's jokes, this was to girdle the Earth. Not only was the post office besieged by punters wanting to send catlick mail (until the cat was driven demented and fled after two days) but the story spread and resurfaced for years. Animal protection societies weighed in, MPs spoke and the innocuous prank took off. Bone's friend was send clippings from across the country and, as the years went by, from Australia, Shanghai and the United States.
This suggests that stamp-licking animals were a journalistic invention. However, there do seem to have been some real-life examples of the phenomenon.
Longview Daily News - Dec 13, 1974
The Bloomington Pantagraph - Mar 11, 1951
"Ashley practiced stamp-licking until he had the task down purrfectly, then offered to kick off the Organization for Responsible Care of Animals' public appeal... In return for his generosity, each donor will receive a thank-you note enclosed in an Ashley-licked envelope with stamp attached." Lancaster Sunday News - Oct 6, 1985
1879: Reports reached America of experiments conducted in the city of Liege, Belgium to determine if cats could be used to deliver mail. Three dozen cats were said to have been placed in bags and then taken several miles out of the city. They were then released, after a message had been tied to each one. The cats reportedly made it back to their homes in Liege before the humans did.
Plans were said to be in the works "to establish a regular system of cat communication between Liege and the neighboring villages".
Another odd cookbook: Cat-food maker Fancy Feast has released a book of recipes for humans. As explained in the book's introduction:
each of the recipes in this cookbook gives a nod to the dishes you'll be serving your cat, yet made for humans. Using palate-pleasing ingredients like chicken, salmon, and whitefish, these dishes complement Fancy Feast's entrée options so you can have what they're having—an elegant and delicious meal.
1946: Carolyn Swanson of Hermosa Beach, California made headlines on account of Baby, her "seeing-eye cat." Somehow she had trained him to assist her as she walked around town.
Mrs. Swanson lives at 1029 Bayview Dr. in Hermosa Beach. Any day when she goes down the street "Baby" quickly moves along the fence ahead of her, jumps to the top of the first step and slowly waves his full tail, brushing her ankle. He does not move until she begins to count out loud the first of the seven steps down. Then lightly he moves on to the bottom step, meows to tell her the path is clear and out to the sidewalk and curb he moves, and again awaits his beloved mistress. Waving that beautiful tail and brushing her ankle, he without sound tells her of the curb step, and not until the traffic is clear does he stop waving his tail so that she may know to cross. Slowly they both cross, she having confidence in her steps because "Baby" is at her side, brushing her ankle with his tail, keeping her path straight. As they approach the curb he stops, announces the curb, and after she is safely upon it they move on.
— The Redondo Reflex - Dec 13, 1946
The artwork Infinity Kisses, by Carolee Schneeman, consists of multiple self-shot photos of her kissing her cat. (See video below). She worked on it from 1982-1988.
After she completed this work, it evidently didn't receive much attention from the art world, because in a 1991 essay, published in Art Journal (Winter 1991), she complained of its neglect:
Is the critical neglect of my current work a form of censorship? For instance, is the lack of attention to two of my recent works, the 1988 installation, Venus Vectors, in which the unraveling of two (menstrual) dream symbols situates a visual morphology of vulvic form, and Infinity Kisses, a recent photo series of my cat, Cluny, and me that raises the issue of "appropriate eroticism" and interspecies communication, an act of censorship?
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.