Erik the Red, beloved cat on Halifax ship, dies after brief illness

A feline fixture along the Halifax waterfront, the orange tabby passed away earlier this week at around 20 years of age.

Erik was the 'rodent control officer' for CSS Acadia and retired 2 years ago

Erik the Red served as the rodent control officer aboard the CSS Acadia for more than 15 years until he retired in 2015. 0:47

A well-known feline fixture along the Halifax waterfront has died.

Erik the Red served as the rodent control officer aboard the CSS Acadia for more than 15 years until he retired in 2015.

The ship is a permanent exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which posted a message on its homepage Thursday saying that an era had come to an end.

"Erik was the last of the four rodent control officers who so proudly served aboard ship," the message reads in part. "Well done, good and faithful servant and God speed."

The message said Erik died on Tuesday.

From stray to rodent control officer

The orange tabby had been living with shipkeeper Stephen Read in retirement. He put Erik's age at 20 to 22 years, explaining that the cat had been a stray until he followed Read to the ship from north-end Halifax one night in 1997.

Erik the Red at his retirement party in September 2015, in the chart room of the CSS Acadia. (Aly Thomson/The Canadian Press)

Erik was often seen wandering around the shops and restaurants on the waterfront. Some people offered him sweaters in the winter, while museum staff were convinced others puffed Erik up with treats.

Read said that pretty much everyone along the waterfront had come to know the feline.

"Because he became so popular and garnered so strong of a local following, he became known outside of the city, outside of the province, outside the country," he said. "He's incredibly well renowned."

'Slipped away so fast'

Erik had been in good spirits until very recently, Read said, when he began to have trouble walking.

"He just kind of slipped away so fast — it shocked us all."

Stephen Read, who took Erik in after he retired, said the beloved cat will likely receive a burial at sea. (Tara Scudder/Facebook)

The Acadia is a Canadian Scientific Ship that was retired in 1969 after 56 years of service. It was designated a national historic site in 1976.

The museum will put out a condolences book at the front desk, Read said, and a memorial will probably be held at some point down the road.

Erik will likely receive a burial at sea, as did his predecessors, Read said.

"We'll take him out past McNabs Island and cast the ashes to the sea."

With files from The Canadian Press