Feline Friends

       28 June 2002                      20c, $1.00, $1.50, $3.00                                   Mint and CTO           $5.70
                                                                                                                                          FDC           $6.70
                                                  Sheetlet:  20c + $3.00                                       Mint and CTO           $3.20
                                                                                                                                          FDC           $4.20

 Technical Details

Release Date             : 28 June 2002
Denominations           : 4 stamps: 20c, $1.00, $1.50, $3.00
                                 : Sheetlet:  20c + $3.00 = $3.20
Stamp Design            : Nancy Tichbourne, Akaroa, NZ
Printer                       : Joh. Enschedé, The Netherlands
Process                     : Offset Lithography
Paper                        : Sopal Satimat 110 gsm
Stamp Size                : 40.00 x 36.00mm four vertical stamps
Miniature Sheet Size  : 75mm x 82mm
Perforation Gauge      : 13 x 13.25
Sheet                         : Panes of  2 x 25 stamps
First Day Covers       :  $6.70  with four stamps
                                 :  $4.20 with the sheetlet

The Feline Friends issue is the second Pitcairn issue illustrated by Nancy Tichbourne.  Her first for us, was the Tropical Fruits issue, last year.

Local Pitcairn cats were patiently photographed by Karen MacDonald, the wife of Rob MacDonald who was the Education Officer/Government Adviser on Pitcairn last year.

Alicat Pulau is the schoolhouse cat, descended from a long line of Pitcairn cats and cared for by three different families who have lived in the schoolhouse at Pulau, since Alicat’s birth some six years ago.  She quickly attaches herself to her new family and follows them about on walks, some distance from the house.  She will try to take over a chair that someone may be occupying, or take over the bed at night.  Alicat is a great ratter and well behaved.

Nala Brown is a New Zealand born cat, taken back to Pitcairn to help re-build the cat population.  Initially she was Ariel Brown’s cat.  Ariel says that she has a fondness for eating fish, rice and cat biscuits but recently took a liking to some duck meat her father Dave, traded for aboard a visiting cruise ship.  Dave recently took Nala to Tedside in the hope that she would help re-populate that side of the island with cats in an effort to control rats among the banana palms and citrus trees.

Simba and Miti Christian both live at Big Fence, where they are cared for by Steve, Olive and Dobrey Christian.  Like most Pitcairn cats, they are both excellent hunters and both enjoy eating fish.  Miti is perhaps more of an indoor cat and enjoys sleeping on the couch.

Cats have held an elevated place in Pitcairn society since the Bounty arrived; perhaps more so than in most other places.  In 1838, Captain Elliot of HMS Fly established Pitcairn’s first recorded Constitution and laws.  Apart from making Pitcairn perhaps the first country in the world to give universal suffrage to both men and women 18 years old and over, these laws included sections entitled Laws for Dogs, Laws for Cats and Laws for Hogs.

It was unlawful for a dog to kill a cat, the penalty payable by the dog’s owner, being $50.  At some point after 1864, a law was enacted that provided for the imprisonment of dogs for chasing cats.  In 1893 the Constitution was revised and the death penalty was prescribed as punishment for dogs chasing cats.  During 1904 however, this law was abolished.

Pitcairners are able to relate the lineages of their cats, sometimes several generations back.  Although valued as pets, cats have been kept as a means of controlling rats.  Over the years, many were intentionally released into the wild to help control rats particularly around vegetable gardens.  A substantial feral cat population grew until 1996 when, as part of an attempt to eradicate rats, feral cats were shot due to a fear that with one food source removed, they would most likely focus upon the bird population.  Those cats that were not shot, died of secondary poisoning, as did many of the domestic cats, much to the distress of their owners.  The bird population however, has recovered dramatically.

Following a second unsuccessful attempt to eradicate rats, the Pitcairners sought to rebuild their cat numbers and several cats were imported from New Zealand.  Again the Pitcairners are releasing them into the wild, particularly in the areas of the island where they have their gardens, in an effort to help control rats.