Cat Adoption Officer Matt Pearson tells us some surprising tales of boat-loving cats.
“Although cats may not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of a four-legged water baby, they actually have a rich history of thriving on boats. They were initially used as chief mouse-catchers, accompanying intrepid sailors on long voyages across the seven seas, and they have also had another important, albeit more social, role boosting morale on naval ships during wartime.
This little-known heritage is continued today around Britain’s canal network, whose users often travel with cats as beloved companions. We have had great success in rehoming several Mayhew cats in boating communities over the years, pairing them with adopters who live on both static and cruising boats across London’s river system. The first thing we consider is whether this type of accommodation is right for the cat, so we speak to adopters about only those cats who we think will flourish aboard a floating abode.
Ripley came to Mayhew as a stray and we rehomed her at the end of last year. She was very friendly and confident, both traits you would look for in a boat cat. She was also really calm and seemed to be quite a curious soul, so when prospective adopter Cordelia came in looking for a cat to live with her on her boat, they seemed a perfect match. After a successful home visit, Cordelia took Ripley to live with her on the canal.
Cordelia has kept us updated on Ripley’s progress and she seems to be really enjoying her new life. She is quite adventurous, hopping on and off the boat and scouring the tow path for ‘presents’ to bring home to her new mum.”
“She has fallen in the water a few times but she’s a great swimmer and knows that she will dry off next to the fire. Every fall teaches her what not to do!”
A boating life is not for every cat, but for Ripley and many others adopted from Mayhew it has worked out just fine.
‘Unsinkable Sam’ was the most famous feline mascot of the British Royal Navy. He was originally a ship cat aboard the German battleship Bismarck, which was sunk in 1941. Tragically, only 110 out of a crew of more than 2,300 survived – 111, if you include Sam! He was picked up by the destroyer HMS Cossack, which was in turn torpedoed and sunk a few months later, with 159 of the crew losing their lives. But again Sam survived. He moved on to HMS Ark Royal, but had to be rescued once more when that boat was also torpedoed and sunk. It was decided that it was time to settle him on dry land and he became mouser-in residence at the office of the Governor General of Gibraltar. Sam eventually returned to the UK to live out his retirement with a fellow seaman and his family until his death in 1955.
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