The History of Cats on Ships

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For a long time, cats have been top-choice companions for seafarers. And it wasn’t just naval ships that brought cats on board, but ships including trading, exploration, and some pirate ships in the past have also been recorded to have cats on their ships. It seems that almost every ship, whether public or private, has its own cat which made the term “ship’s cat” popular.

Why Did Ships Have Cats?

The very first seafarers recorded in history to realize the value of cats as shipmates were the ancient Egyptians. During their voyages, Egyptians always had cats onboard and many experts believe it was for good luck and to appease their feline goddess Bastet.

As more ships voyaged to trade goods, go on expeditions, and for military purposes, cats have become even more popular companions for sailors onboard. The primary reason cats were brought on to ships, aside from providing companionship on long travels, is that they help control vermin. Rats and mice are a serious problem on ships as they can eat the limited food supply, damage ropes, and spread diseases. Cats prevent ships from being overrun by mice to ensure a successful voyage for the ships.

Others believe in superstitions, like the Egyptians, that cats protected them by bringing good luck and that their tails had magical powers to control the weather. They also believed in the cats’ ability to guide them in case of a shipwreck at night because of their keen eyesight.

Ships and Cats Today

Are ships still bringing cats onboard today as they did in the past? Not exactly. In 1975, the Royal Navy banned cats and other pet animals from all ships on the ocean due to hygiene concerns. However, many private ships still have cats with them on their ships up until now.

This goes to show that cats have always been reliable companions even in the beginning of civilization. Ship cats were not only helping sailors overcome loneliness from being away from their homes and families, but more importantly, they literally saved lives by preventing an infestation of disease-spreading vermin on the ships. Cats have proven themselves to be worthy friends to keep for life in the past until the present time.

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