Post Office Cats

Meet Tibs the Great and delve into the furry world of Post Office cats...

Cats were first officially appointed by the Post Office to catch rodents in September 1868 (although there had undoubtedly been cats in post offices before). Three cats worked on probation at the Money Order Office in London, with an allowance of one shilling a week. They were given 6 months by the Secretary of the Post Office to reduce the mouse problem or they would be cut.

Tibs the post office cat. Black and white image of a tabby cat with collar.

Tibs the Official Post Office Headquarters Cat

Allowances for cats

Luckily the cats did ‘their duty very efficiently’ and in 1873 they were awarded an increase of 6d per week. The official use of cats soon spread to other post offices with the cost of maintaining them varying.

Fast forward 80 years to 1952, when there was public outrage at the fact that Post Office cats hadn’t received a raise since 1873! The following year a question was raised in the House of Commons asking the Assistant Postmaster General, Mr L D Gammans, “when the allowance payable for the maintenance of cats in his department was last raised…”

Letter requesting expenditure for cat, 1912. (POST 121/206)

  • “…industrial chaos in The Post Office cat world.”

     

    Mr Gammans replied that “There is, I am afraid, a certain amount of industrial chaos in The Post Office cat world. Allowances vary in different places, possibly according to the alleged efficiency of the animals and other factors. It has proved impossible to organise any scheme for payment by results or output bonus…there has been a general wage freeze since July 1918, but there have been no complaints!”

    Right image: Typed minutes related to payment of Post Office Cats, March 1953.

  • Tibs the Great

    The most popular cat of all, however, was named Tibs the Post Office cat, who was born in November 1950. At his biggest, Tibs weighed 23lbs and lived in the Headquarters’ refreshment club in the basement of the building. He not only kept Post Office Headquarters completely mouse-free during his 14 years’ service, but found time to appear at a ‘cats and film stars’ party and have his portrait included in a 1953 book Cockney Cats. Tibs worked diligently until his death in November 1964.

    The last Post Office HQ cat, Blackie, died in June 1984, since when there have been no more cats employed at Post Office Headquarters.

  • Black and white post office magazine clipping

    Obituary of Tibs the Post Office cat appearing in the Post Office magazine.

Sources from the collection

POST 30: England & Wales Minutes (1792-1920)

The Post Office Magazine, January, April and June 1965

Post Office Press Notices No.1548B, 1939

Search Room portfolio collection

R. Ash Dear Cats: The Post Office Letters (1986)

J. Farrugia & T. Gammons Carrying British Mail (1980)


Research

You can search collection records in the online catalogue and study material from our archives by visiting The Discovery Room.

Access and enquiries Search our catalogue Visit The Discovery Room

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