Boat Cats

Past to Present - History of Boat Cats

For some reason, some of us are addicted to the companionship of cats. Regardless of their lifestyle, and social relations, the picture is not complete without a cat companion for this group of people. Like they have integrated in every aspect of our lives, the cats have been accompanying us on our boats for centuries. Introducing…. The boat cats….

Boat Cats

History and archaeology indicate that cats began to enter human life about 10,000 years ago. Scientists hypothesize that African wildcats were introduced to the first human settlements in Mesopotamia by rodents and domesticated by Neolithic farmers. This mutual relationship between the first farmers and domesticated cats lasted for thousands of years. As farming practices spread, so did the domesticated cats.

With the increase in settled life and the development of trading, human beings, who achieved progress in sailing, also started to trade by sea between 2000-1000 BC. As a precautionary measure, seafarers employ cats on board to avoid rodent infestation of grain-carrying ships. Historical findings show that Greek, Etruscan, Carthaginian and Phoenician maritime merchants employed ship cats. So this new role of the cats on board also caused the spread of domesticated cats throughout the southern Mediterranean over time.

Cats who join the ships as crew with a specific task soon became a part of the life of the ship. Those were the years when sea faring was a difficult, even deadly profession. The cruises are long and challenging, the conditions grueling and frightening. Over time, the cats, whose main task on the ship is to fight rodents, also begin to share the sailor’s life as companions.

So much so that in the 16th century, no ship could leave the port without the ship’s cat. Some captains and crews would just take the cats with them for cruising and leave them in the port where they arrived, the cat would live on the docks in the port where it arrived, waiting to be recruited by the next ship.

Cat people know, cats are mysterious and mystical creatures whose miracles are hidden in themselves. Cats, which are worshipped as gods in some mythologies, are famous as magical animals. Therefore, numerous legends and superstitions about cats have emerged in the heavily superstitious maritime culture.

Boat Cats - Ginger Tabby on Deck

On ships, cats established themselves as intelligent and lucky creatures, and a high level of care was taken for sailors to keep the ship’s cat happy. It was believed that a sailor who did not get along with the boat cat would get in trouble. It was believed that if a cat approached and stumbled upon a sailor on board, it would bring luck to that sailor, but if it suddenly retreated on approach, it would also bring bad luck.

Boat Cats - Picton_Castle_Mouser_of_Maine_2015

Cats were also believed to have miraculous powers that could protect ships from dangerous weather conditions. Another common belief was that cats could start storms through magic hidden in their tails. It was believed that if a ship’s cat fell or was thrown into the sea, it would summon a terrible storm that would sink the ship, and if the ship survived that storm, it would be cursed with bad luck for nine  years.Sometimes the wives of fishermen kept black cats at home to protect their husbands at sea with their magic. 

Among other beliefs, if a cat licked its fur in the opposite direction, it meant that a strong storm would hit soon. Or the sneezing of the ship’s cat would bring rain and the ship’s cat being active and cheerful is the sign of the arrival of favourable winds..

There is some truth to some of these beliefs. Because cats have a very sensitive inner ear structure, they can detect small changes in the weather as a result of even small changes in atmospheric pressure. Low atmospheric pressure, a common harbinger of stormy weather, often makes cats nervous and restless. A sailor who observes boat cats well can detect the cat’s unusual behaviour and predict an approaching storm.


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