Some house cats resemble couch pillows; others hold down a full-time job.
Among the paid or volunteer “employees” are therapy cats, café cats, and feral cats retrained to work on farms. There are even bureaucats monitoring the halls of officialdom!
But the first working cats were sailors.
As much as kitties hate getting wet, they have ridden the waves for thousands of years–ever since Phoenicians, Greeks, and other maritime traders first smuggled them out of the Land of the Pharaohs.
At first, Egyptian cats were status symbols that only the elite could afford. After a few voyages, sailors realized that there also were practical benefits to keeping some of these newfangled domesticated animals on board.
They were much better at pest control than the weasels and other small carnivores in use at the time. This translated into more money, since more cargo survived the voyage.
Another nice thing about ship cats is that they don’t take up much room, and their “fare” naturally includes meals.
Cats also provide bored sailors with companionship and entertainment.
Down through the centuries, cats traveled everywhere with people, on land as well as by sea.
This connection was so close that researchers now map domestic cat coat colors and patterns to trace ancient human migrations and activities. (Todd)
During the Middle Ages, European laws mandated a cat on every ship. (Ottoni and others) A bit later, dogs were listed as cargo on the Mayflower when it sailed to North America in 1620, but ship cats were so common that there probably also were some feline passengers on that historic voyage.
That’s a point historians of the Maine Coon would like to clarify. Genetic testing shows that these big long-haired fancy-cats originated in Europe, but it’s still a mystery who brought them to New England–Vikings, the Pilgrims, or later European immigrants.
Well-known twentieth-century ship cats in the West’s merchant marine and naval fleets have included Blackie, Peebles, Convoy, Pincher, Tiddles, and Pooli (a US veteran who reportedlyrated three service ribbons and four battle stars).
****For the rest of this story, please go to the original site: Working Cats — Flight To Wonder