Cats and humans have walked side by side on land for thousands of years. It is less known that cats have shared the seas with us. They have a great ability to adapt to their surroundings, and thrive on ships.
In today’s society many people consider black cats bad luck. At sea, it was the complete opposite. Cats, particularly black cats, were believed to protect ships from dangerous weather. Fishermen’s wives would keep black cats at home, hoping they would protect the men at sea.
The US Naval Institute writes, “It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates.” The kitties protected the ships from rats and mice, served as company, and could to some extent warn for foul weather. Cats have sensitive inner ears, and low atmospheric pressure often make them nervous and restless.
Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into provisions, chew through ropes, and spread disease. It was also common to adopt cats from foreign lands to serve as souvenirs and remind the crew of their pets at home.