This article was first published on #FolkloreThursday.com titled Ship’s Cats in Legend and Folklore written by zteve t evans.
Ship’s cats have been sailing the seven seas alongside humans for centuries. They were not usually taken along as pets or tourists, but performed an essential role controlling vermin. Rodents managed to find their way on to most types of ships and cats being a natural enemy were taken along to reduce their number.
Rats and mice could cause all sorts of problems for sailors. Ships carried many different types of cargo and the profits of the ship owners and crew depended on keeping that cargo as safe as possible. Rodents would eat and contaminate anything edible such as grain or food and ships also carried sufficient provisions and stores for the crew which needed protection. Rodents also gnaw and chew inedible items such as rope or woodwork causing problems with the working of the ship. In modern ships, electric cables or hoses were also vulnerable to rodent attack, often leading to fires or breakdowns. Rodents carried disease, and in the small enclosed community of a ship infections could spread rapidly. Cats, being natural predators, made a good choice for rodent control onboard while offering companionship to the sailors.