For thousands of years, ships’ cats have played an important role aboard many trading, exploration and naval ships. They served as companions, good luck charms and performed an essential job by catching mice on long, arduous journeys.
Researcher Halee Turner explores these stories and superstitions at the Redmond Historical Society’s Evening Speaker Series on April 22 at the Redmond Library, 15990 NE 85th St.
Ships’ cats were an integral part of many sailors’ everyday lives, and their bond is clear in touching stories of clever cats and photos of carefully crafted miniature bunks, according to a press release. Even sailors’ superstitions show a protectiveness and affectionate respect for their feline friends.
“There are many ways that luck and superstition related to the ship’s cat,” Turner said in the release. “For example, fishermen’s wives believed that a black cat at home could offer protection to their husbands at sea, but most [superstitions] have underlying logic to them.”
In the release, she added, “Sailors thought that a cat wouldn’t board a ship destined to sink. Like ‘rats fleeing a sinking ship,’ animals have the innate ability to sense danger. There was also a superstition that cats could control the weather or generate storms, essentially using static electricity. The reality is that a cat’s senses differ from ours and they sometimes react strongly to the changes in barometric pressure that accompany changes in weather conditions.”
Despite their importance, the finer details and stories of specific cats often managed to slip past the historical record. The upcoming event will take some time to discuss why that is and explore some of the more well-documented examples of the ship’s cat from around the globe, including a few from Washington state.