Ship's Cats

Ship’s Cats

Several thousand years ago in the Nile valley in Egypt man progressed from a nomadic to a more settled agrarian life. Crops were cultivated and stored and this attracted rodents in large numbers. The African wildcat noted this state of affairs which clearly had interesting possibilities for an enterprising feline. Man + grain + rodents = food + nice comfy warm home + lots of treats. Yummy.

The cats moved in and quickly proved their worth as the most effective means of rodent control.

Man was very pleased and encouraged his new found and most useful companions who were made most welcome. This relationship blossomed and prospered over hundreds of years.

When traders arrived in Egypt the cats noted ships and the ships had rats. The cats saw further opportunities and moved in. A life on the ocean waves clearly had plenty of scope for travel and the expansion of the cat empire.

The ships had lots of rats, they were warm dry and snug, except when they sank, and the sailors enjoyed the company of their furry friends. The cats, being an adaptable creatures and quick to learn, were most at home in their new surroundings and continued to prove their worth and more than earn their keep.

And so the cat took to the seas. As the ships visited ports in the then known world the cats would go ashore and, if the environment was suitable and the natives friendly, they often settled down to make a new home in a new land.

Nautical cats spread throughout the globe. They were able to visit and explore exciting new places and meet famous and interesting people.

Cats were regular crew members on ships of all shapes, sizes and types, merchant and naval for thousands of years up until recent times. Certainly in British maritime history there are many famous felines. Here are pictures of a selection of Royal Navy cats.


Terra Nova cat 1911

Terra Nova cat 1911

Chief Petty Officer Bakers cat HMS London

Chief Petty Officer Baker’s cat HMS London


Fishcake HMS Hood

Ginger HMS Hood

Ginger HMS Hood

HMS Encounter cat

HMS Encounter cat

HMS Exeter cat with sailor

HMS Exeter cat with sailor

3 others that immediately spring to mind are

1/ Trim, a marvelous feline character who sailed round Australia and the world with the famous map maker, Matthew Flinders, in the early 19th C.

2/ Mrs Chippy, the great polar explorer cat.

3/ Simon, the cat on HMS Amethyst of the Yankste Incident fame, who was awarded the Dicken medal for his part in this epic adventure.

WebMaster David Fell

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