A variety of animals have been used to deliver mail
over the years, from camels and dogs to horses and pigeons. But cats? According to a 19th century article in the New York Times, around 1877 the Belgian Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat tested 37 cats for the task by taking them far from the city of Liege where they "promptly proceeded to 'scat.'" Within 24 hours, they had all returned home.
This result has greatly encouraged the society, and it is proposed to establish at an early day a regular system of cat communication between Liege and the neighboring villages. Messages are to be fastened in water-proof bags around the necks of the animals, and it is believed that, unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail-cats, the messages will be delivered with rapidity and safety.
"Domestic Explosives and Other Six Column Fancies: (From the New York Times.)" - William Livingston Alden
Flickr user BryantSpokane scanned and posted "choice pages" from a 1972 Stromberg's Chicks & Pets Unlimited
catalog. Stromberg's apparently used to mail-order live chickens, chinchillas, ferrets, armadillos, skunks, badgers, beavers, possums, prairie dogs, and other critters. It's an historical document that manages to be exciting and queasy at the same time -- you can imagine the trembling excitement of a kid in 1972 contemplating this mail-order menagerie, and then imagine the plight of some poor armadillos and badgers and such stuffed into cardboard boxes and sent through the post. Yikes!
Stromberg's Chicks & Pets Unlimited 1972