Erik the Red, Halifax Harbour’s most famous feline resident, has announced his retirement. After serving for 15 years as the Rodent Control Officer on board the CSS Acadia, this feline pirate has earned some time off.
He first came on board the CSS Acadia as a stowaway. “I was walking through the streets of Halifax one night with a friend, and this cat started following us, street after street after street, and he wouldn’t go away,” said shipkeeper Steven Read.
Fortunately, Erik was saved from having to walk the plank because his timing was perfect–a nearby building was being torn down, which meant more mice and rats finding their way onto the ship. And the resident Rodent Control Officer, Clara, wasn’t too interested in doing her job. Erik quickly dispatched many of the rodent invaders, and was soon promoted to Senior Rodent Control Officer.
Says Read, “He had free rein of the ship. We left the port light open for him at all times, he could come and go. He could control the docks, meet his peeps.” Erik’s rodent control duties stretched well beyond the ship to include the entire waterfront area.
“The spring would come and he’d be out, he’d be patrolling, he couldn’t wait for the weather. And then when the crowds got a little thick and dense in the summer, he’d retreat a little bit, like most locals do. Living on board this museum ship, there can really be no life like the cat’s life has been.“
Erik became quite popular with the tourists, and even endured three cat-nappings. ”He’s classically feline attractive. In fact, just probably too cute for his own good,” said Read.
“He’s my buddy, and a valued co-worker. I’ve known three of the four rodent control officers who have been onboard this ship since 1981, and he’s been the best that I’ve seen. He was the most efficient and the most consistent.”
Like any good buddy, Erik would sometimes leave presents for his friend the shipkeeper. “I woke up one morning to find the bits of a small rat, its head and tail, in the bottom of my shoe when I put my shoe on. I understood that it was a symbolic gift, and I was grateful for it, after the initial shock.”
Erik, now somewhere between 17 and 20 years old, has been semi-retired for a few years and lives with Read at his home in Halifax. Erik recently had one of his eyes removed due to melanoma, giving him that classic pirate kitty look.
Read said, “It simply got to the point where, given his advanced years, he wasn’t all that comfortable anymore with the winters on the ship. I don’t know if you’ve ever been below decks on a steel ship in the winter time, but there’s very little recourse from the damp and the cold.”
This past weekend, Erik’s co-workers decided he deserved a grand send-off, and threw him a retirement party on board the ship. A guest book was on hand to capture memories from his dozens of guests. In typical cat fashion, Erik slept through most of the party.
Ship staff are on the lookout for a replacement Rodent Control Officer, because “there’s no extermination system that can go through the maze-like infrastructure on a ship and do as efficient a job as a cat probably could.” Not every cat is willing to stick with his ship, though, and Erik the Red’s boots will be tough to fill.
Happy retirement, Erik the Red!