Erik the Red to retire from rodent control officer duties on CSS Acadia
Hotline set up for fans to bid bon voyage to feline rodent control officer
He's survived three cat-nappings and 16 winters on board CSS Acadia, but now Erik the Red is set to swallow the anchor.
Erik has served as rodent control officer on the ship since 1998. It was a job he picked for himself when he was a stray kitten, wandering the waterfront.
"He came aboard as a stowaway," said Steven Read, shipkeeper for CSS Acadia.
The 102-year-old ship is permanently moored outside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. While it doesn't leave the shore, it has the same problem with rodent visitors as many ships.
Erik's passion for the hunt was perfectly timed. His arrival was around the same time a building was being torn down near the ship. Read says there was a surge in the number of field mice and rats that jumped on board, but they quickly learned their mistake.
"He came aboard and took to his rodent control duties with an incredible flourish," he said.
At the time, CSS Acadia already had a rodent control officer, Clara. But she was less than enthusiastic about her duties, and Erik the Red was quickly promoted.
Erik's antics have made him one of the most famous personalities in the city.
"He's classically feline attractive. In fact, just probably too cute for his own good," said Read, referring to the three different cat-nappings Erik endured, the most recent being last year when he was gone for four days.
Erik took his popularity in stride.
"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."
The tabby cat was often seen wandering around the shops and restaurants on the waterfront. Some offered him sweaters in the winter, while museum staff are convinced others puffed Erik up with treats.
"Living on board this museum ship, there can really be no life like the cat's life has been. 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 is now at least 18 years old, and starting to show his age. His co-workers decided it was time to give their peer an extravagant send off.
"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."
A new chapter
Museum staff have now set up a hotline, asking people to call in and record their best encounters with Erik. They're also collecting photos and video in time for the Sept. 20 party.
They're expecting a huge crowd to take part in Erik's sendoff.
In retirement, Erik will be moving inland, to share a home in Halifax's north end with his co-worker Read.
"His home life is going to be different, there's no question."
As for posting the job and finding a replacement, Read says it's a possibility.
"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. But one of the problems with having a cat on board is you need them to bind and bond to the vessel itself."