Of all the companion animals with which we are privileged to share our lives there is none as captivating as the cat with all its mysterious aloofness and cautious but everlasting love.
In 1998 one or more cats lived in 63 per cent of New Zealand homes, a statistic that placed our nation ahead of others in the ratio of cats to people. We adored them for their strength of personality, their independence, their enviable elegance, their sensuous charm and their therapeutic powers. This wild spirit of the cat has been captured and is to be treasured.
The domestication of the cat can be traced back some 9,000 years. Cat fanciers have placed the origin of domestic felines to the cats of Egypt 3,600 years ago where paintings, effigies, gods and mummified cats are recorded. In reality, civilisations 3,000 years before Christ, painted, buried and worshipped cats with a reverence the like of which no other animal enjoyed.
Cat burials often surpassed human burials in both grandeur and cost. To keep cats happy in the after-life they were buried with mummified mice and saucers of milk. A recent discovery unearthed a cat cemetary containing 300,000 perfectly preserved feline mummies. There is little doubt that the vast range of cat breeds with which we are now familiar were genetically developed from these ancient cats.
Inevitably, their popularity was challenged, and perhaps it was the advent of Christianity that was the most responsible. In the Middle Ages black cats were formally linked to the devil and sorcery, and along with witches were tortured and drowned. This persecution almost led to their extermination resulting in the bubonic plague epidemic, which was carried by rats. Perhaps it is their mixed history that led to their mysterious aloofness and caution that captivates us today, for within that sleek frame and those penetrating eyes are millenia of lifetimes that are to be both envied and pitied.
The first cats in New Zealand would have inevitably arrived on the ships carrying settlers and all their supplies. It was quite the norm to have cats on board to keep the stores of grain free of vermin. These pioneer 'working cats' quickly adapted to their new surroundings and as each new settlement was established the care of the domestic moggy was accepted as a part of normal life. The arrival of pedigree cats in the country occurred somewhat later when their aristocratic owners, the only ones who could afford to ship them out, set up their households.
The New Zealand Governing Council of Cat Fanciers was established in 1930 to regulate breeds, register the pedigrees and encourage standards required of breeders. During the depression and war years it went into recess. Starting up again in 1949 it grew in strength with member clubs springing up all over the country. The Auckland Cat Club, set up in the 1930's is the oldest recorded all-breeds cat club whilst the official Siamese Club was the first specialist breed club to be endorsed by the Governing Council.
In 1950, 256 pedigree kittens were registered and in 1951 there were 488. The 1960s and 1970s, with the advent in air travel, were boom years with an ever increasing number of kittens bred and new breeds being registered. In 1972 affiliated member clubs reformed as the New Zealand Cat Fancy which celebrated its 25th jubilee in 1997. The 1997 NZCF Yearbook listed registered breeders for a total of 26 different breeds.
The many breeds, both pedigree and domestic, that have been seen on the show benches throughout New Zealand were governed and judged by the standards established and enforced by the New Zealand Car Fancy. The Year of the Tiger - Favourite Felines stamp issue paid tribute to the cat in all its forms, from the domestic moggy to the British Blue. Six breeds of cat commonly found in New Zealand homes were honoured.
The release of the Favourite Felines issue was timed to coincide with the Year of the Tiger. This issue was the second in New Zealand Post’s lunar calendar series, which commenced with the Year of the Ox in 1997. Each sheet of stamps featured a lunar calendar tiger figure in a central gutter strip. A special miniature sheet and souvenir envelope featuring the tiger were also available with this issue, as well as a set of six stunning maximum cards.
Product Listing for 1998 Year of the Tiger - Favourite Felines
Click on image to enlarge.
|Date of issue:||11 February 1998|
|Number of stamps:||Six|
|Denominations and designs:||Sheet stamps: 40c Domestic Moggy, 80c Burmese, $1.00 Birman, $1.20 British Blue, $1.50 Persian, $1.80 Siamese; Miniature sheet: 40c Domestic Moggy, $1.00 Birman, $1.80 Siamese|
|Stamps, first day cover and souvenir cover designed by:||Julie Greig, Wellington, New Zealand|
|Miniature sheet and lunar calendar figure designed by:||Lindy Fisher, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Printer and process:||Southern Colour Print, New Zealand by lithography|
|Number of colours:||Stamps: four process colours and one special colour; Miniature sheet: four process colours and two special colours|
|Stamp size and format:||30mm x 40mm (vertical)|
|Miniature sheet size:||100 x 135mm|
|Paper type:||104gsm red phosphor coated Litho paper stamp paper|
|Number of stamps per sheet:||100 stamps per sheet - with vertical gutter strip of 10 tiger figures through the middle of each sheet; Miniature sheet: three stamps|
|Cost of unadressed first day cover with stamps:||$7.20|
|Cost of unadressed souvenir cover with miniature sheet:||$3.70|
|Special blocks:||Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamp sheets. Colour blocks ('traffic lights') were included in plate blocks. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.|
|Gutter pairs:||Could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps of any denomination, with a gutter panel between them.|
|Period of issue:||These stamps remained on sale until 11 February 1999.|