Tibs the Great

Last updated

Tibs the Great
Tibs the Great.jpg
Tibs in 1953
Other name(s)Tibs
Species Cat
Sex Male
BornNovember 1950
London, England
DiedDecember 1964
Occupation British Post Office's "number one cat"
Years active1950–1964
OwnerAlf Talbut
Parent(s)Minnie (mother)

Tibs the Great (November 1950 – December 1964) was the British Post Office's "number one cat" and kept the post office headquarters in London completely mouse-free during his 14 years of service. He was the son of Minnie, and on his death, several newspapers ran an obituary.



Cats had been officially employed by the Post Office to catch rodents since September 1868, when three cats were taken on for a six-month trial period at a rate of one shilling per week, in the London Money Order Office. [1] On 7 May 1869, it was noted that "the cats have done their duty very efficiently". [2] By 1873, the cats were being paid 1s 6d, and cats were being employed in other post offices. [1]

Early life

It is thought that Tibs was born in London in November 1950. [3] His father is unknown. His mother was Minnie, another "fine cat". [4]


Tibs worked at Post Office Headquarters in London for 14 years, and was officially employed and paid 2s 6d per week. He worked in the basement. He was cared for by Alf Talbut, cleaner at the church of St. Martin's Le Grand, who had also owned his mother, Minnie. [4] During his 14 years, Tibs kept the Post Office headquarters completely free of mice. [1]

In 1952 there was "public outrage" that the cats had not had a pay rise since 1873, and the next year there was a question in the House of Commons, asking the Assistant Postmaster-General, David Gammans, "when the allowance payable for the maintenance of cats in his department was last raised?" [1]

Gammans replied, [1]

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. These servants of the State are, however, frequently unreliable, capricious in their duties and liable to prolonged absenteeism. My hon. and gallant Friend has been misinformed regarding the differences between rates for cats in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. There are no Post Office cats in Northern Ireland. Except for the cats at Post Office Headquarters who got the special allowance a few years ago, presumably for prestige reasons, there has been a general wage freeze since July, 1918, but there have been no complaints! [5]

He also hastened to assure the House that Post Office cats had "an adequate maternity service", and that equal pay prevailed in the group. [5]

In media

In 1953, Tibs was featured in a book titled Cockney Cats by Warren Tute and Felix Fonteyn. He also appeared at a "Cats and Film Stars" party. [4]


Tibs died in December 1964; he had been suffering from oral cancer. He received obituaries in several newspapers. By the time of his death he had grown to 23 lb (10 kg) in weight, probably due to living in one of the staff dining rooms, rather than from eating rats. [3] [4] [6] [7]

The last cat employed at Post Office headquarters was Blackie, who died in 1984, which coincided with cloth sacks being replaced with rodent-resistant plastic sacks. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mickey Mouse Disney cartoon character and mascot

Mickey Mouse is an animated cartoon character co-created in 1928 by Walt Disney, who originally voiced the character, and Ub Iwerks. The longtime mascot of The Walt Disney Company, Mickey is an anthropomorphic mouse who typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves. The name "Mickey" was suggested by Walt Disney's wife Lillian in response to Walt's original name, "Mortimer Mouse", during a train ride in 1928. Mickey is one of the world's most recognizable and universally acclaimed fictional characters of all time.

Hugo Swire British politician

Sir Hugo George William Swire is a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for East Devon from 2001 until 2019. A member of the Conservative Party, he has had several ministerial roles, most recently as Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a role he held until July 2016. Swire is currently the Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. He retired at the 2019 general election.

Margot Fonteyn English ballerina (1919–1991)

Dame Margaret Evelyn de Arias DBE, known by the stage name Margot Fonteyn, was an English ballerina. She spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet, eventually being appointed prima ballerina assoluta of the company by Queen Elizabeth II. Beginning ballet lessons at the age of four, she studied in England and China, where her father was transferred for his work. Her training in Shanghai was with Russian expatriate dancer Georgy Goncharov, contributing to her continuing interest in Russian ballet. Returning to London at the age of 14, she was invited to join the Vic-Wells Ballet School by Ninette de Valois. She succeeded Alicia Markova as prima ballerina of the company in 1935. The Vic-Wells choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton, wrote numerous parts for Fonteyn and her partner, Robert Helpmann, with whom she danced from the 1930s to the 1940s.

Royal Academy of Dance

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is a UK-based examination board specialising in dance education and training, with an emphasis on classical ballet. The RAD was founded in London, England in 1920 as the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing, and was granted a Royal Charter in 1935. Queen Elizabeth II is patron of the RAD, and Darcey Bussell was elected to serve as president in 2012, succeeding Antoinette Sibley who served as President for 21 years.

The Royal Ballet Ballet company in the United Kingdom

The Royal Ballet is a British internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England. The largest of the five major ballet companies in Great Britain, the Royal Ballet was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois, it became the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House in 1946, and has purpose built facilities within these premises and was granted a royal charter in 1956, becoming recognised as Britain's flagship ballet company.

Steve Harley Musical artist

Steve Harley is an English singer and songwriter, best known as frontman of the rock group Cockney Rebel, with whom he still tours, albeit with frequent and significant personnel changes.

Pat Sullivan (film producer) Australian-American animator and film producer

Patrick Peter Sullivan was an Australian-American cartoonist, pioneer animator, and film producer best known for producing the first Felix the Cat silent cartoons.

Felix Aylmer English actor

Sir Felix Edward Aylmer Jones, OBE was an English stage actor who also appeared in the cinema and on television. Aylmer made appearances in films with comedians such as Will Hay and George Formby.

Joseph Oriolo was an American cartoon animator, writer, director and producer, known as the co-creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost and the creator of the Felix the Cat TV series.

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) 1975 single by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel

"Make Me Smile " is a song by the British rock band Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, which was released in 1975 by EMI as the lead single from the band's third studio album The Best Years of Our Lives. The song was written by Harley, and produced by Harley and Alan Parsons. In February 1975, the song reached number one on the UK chart and received a gold certification from the British Phonographic Industry in October 2021. It spent nine weeks in the Top 50, and as of 2015, has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Sir Leonard David Gammans, 1st Baronet, known as David Gammans, was a British Conservative Party politician.

Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office Office held by a cat at 10 Downing Street

Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office is the title of the official resident cat at 10 Downing Street, the residence and executive office of the prime minister of the United Kingdom in London. There has been a resident cat in the British government employed as a mouser and pet since the 1500s, although modern records date only to the 1920s. Despite other cats having served Downing Street, the first one to be given the official title of Chief Mouser by the British government was Larry in 2011. Other cats have been given this title affectionately, usually by the British press.

Ships cat Cat that lives aboard a ship at sea

The ship's cat has been a common feature on many trading, exploration, and naval ships dating to ancient times. Cats have been carried on ships for many reasons, most importantly to control rodents. Vermin aboard a ship can cause damage to ropes, woodwork, and more recently, electrical wiring. In addition, rodents threaten ships' stores, devour crews' foodstuff, and can cause economic damage to ships' cargo, such as grain. They are also a source of disease, which is dangerous for ships that are at sea for long periods of time. Rat fleas are carriers of plague, and rats on ships were believed to be a primary vector of the Black Death.

Larry (cat) Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

Larry is a domestic cat who has served as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street since 2011. He is a brown-and-white tabby, believed to have been born in January 2007. By July 2016, when Theresa May became Prime Minister, he had developed a reputation of being "violent" in his interactions with other local mousers, especially the Foreign Office's much younger cat, Palmerston.

Susan was a Pembroke Corgi dog owned by Queen Elizabeth II that was given to her on her eighteenth birthday. Following the dog's death in 1959, the Queen personally designed a headstone for her grave at Sandringham House. Susan was the first of a long line of Corgis and Dorgis owned by the Queen, all of them descended from Susan. The dogs have often accompanied the Queen in her public appearances, and have thus come to feature prominently in her public image.

Sebastian (song) 1973 single by Cockney Rebel

"Sebastian" is a song by the British rock band Cockney Rebel, fronted by Steve Harley. It was released as the band's debut single in 1973 from their album The Human Menagerie. The song was written by Harley and produced by Neil Harrison.

"The Best Years of Our Lives" is a song by the British rock band Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, released in 1975 as the title track from the band's third studio album The Best Years of Our Lives. In 1977, a live version of the song was released as a single from the album Face to Face: A Live Recording.

The Museum Press was a British non-fiction publisher, based in London, that was active in the post-Second World War period up to the 1960s.

Peter (chief mouser) Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

Peter was a cat who served as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom between 1929 and 1946. Whilst Peter was the second cat to serve in this role, he is often considered the first, as his predecessor, Treasury Bill, served for less than a year, and was not officially given the title.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "#MuseumCats Day: 'Industrial chaos in the Post Office cat world'". The British Postal Museum & Archive. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  2. 1 2 Molly Oldfield; John Mitchinson (7 December 2009). "QI: quite interesting facts about keeping in touch". The Telegraph . Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  3. 1 2 Maev Kennedy (4 February 2016). "Royal Mail 'secret' railway on track to reopen next year". The Guardian . Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Tibs the Great is no more". Post Office Magazine. Celebrating 500 Years of Royal Mail. royalmailgroup.com. January 1965. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Cats (Maintenance Allowances)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . Vol. 513. House of Commons. 18 March 1953. col. 4–5.
  6. Erin Blakemore (9 February 2016). "A Brief History of Post Office Cats". smithsonian.com. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  7. Bethan Bell (28 January 2018). "Bureaucats: The felines with official positions". BBC News.

Further reading