We all know our cats are special. And while we have great appreciation for our loveable felines, not many have actually made history. These five cats have left their paw prints on the fabric of time.
Five Historical Cats
Muezza: The Cat Who Protected a Prophet
The Islamic prophet Muhammad was a lover of cats. His favorite, Muezza, was often allowed the privilege of sitting on the his lap when he gave his sermons. In one often-told story, Muezza alerted Muhammad to the presence of a poisonous snake, saving him from a potentially lethal bite. According to Islamic lore, Muhammad granted Muezza the ability to always land on his feet. He also granted the feline seven lives. (The other two must have been bestowed later.)
Trim: The Cat Who Helped Discover a Continent
In the late 18th century, Australia was widely believed to be a collection of islands, but explorer Matthew Flinders disagreed. He said Australia was in fact a continent and set about to prove it. Flinders and the crew of the HMS Reliance had several cats aboard, one of which had a litter of kittens. At one point during the voyage, one of the kittens fell overboard but was able to climb one of the ship’s mooring ropes to safety. Named “Trim” by the crew, the cat quickly became Flinders’ favorite and accompanied the ship on its voyage around the newly discovered continent.
Several years later, the Reliance was damaged and forced to put into port at Mauritius for repairs. Mauritius was then a French possession, and France and England were at war. So, the Reliance crew—including Flinders and Trim—were taken prisoner. It’s rumored that the cat was given to a French woman on the island, but that he soon escaped and lived out his life in the wild.
Unsinkable Sam: The Cat Who Survived Three Shipwrecks in One Year
When the German Battleship Bismarck was sunk after a fierce sea battle in May of 1941, only 118 of her 2000 crewmen survived. But the ship’s cat also made it through the ordeal and was rescued by British sailors from the HMS Cossack. The Cossack’s crew named the cat “Oscar,” and he accompanied the ship for the next several months on its convoy escort duties in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
In October of 1941, the Cossack was torpedoed, and attempts to tow the damaged vessel to Gibraltar were unsuccessful. Oscar was rescued (again), this time by the crew of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. One month later, the Ark Royal was badly damaged by a U-boat torpedo and was abandoned. Oscar survived the third wreck and earned the name “Unsinkable Sam.” He retired from seafaring and lived a quiet life on land until 1955.
F.D.C. Willard: Feline Co-author of a Physics Paper
In 1975, Michigan State physics professor Jack Hetherington authored a breakthrough paper on atomic behavior as a function of temperature. He intended to submit it to the journal Physical Review Letters. The only problem: Hetherington had used the royal “we” throughout the paper, despite being its sole author. The journal had strict rules about such things, so Hetherington faced a dilemma: either painstakingly correct the manuscript (no easy task before word processors) or add a second author. Hetherington decided on the latter option, and added his Siamese cat, Chester, as co-author, assigning the cat the initials “F.D.C.” abbreviation for felix domsticus Chester with the surname Willard (his father’s name). The oft-cited paper made Chester the first cat to co-author a scholarly article on particle physics.
Snowball: The Cat Who Solved a Murder
The 1994 disappearance of Shirley Duguay on Prince Edward Island, Canada, proved to be a challenge for authorities to solve. The police had a suspect, Duguay’s common-law husband Douglas Beamish, and a blood-stained jacket and shoes found in a bag in the woods. However, they couldn’t tie the clothes to Beamish. That is, until forensic geneticist Stephen O’Brien was able to match DNA from white hairs obtained from the jacket to DNA from Snowball, an all-white cat belonging to Beamish. In the end, it was the cat that cinched the conviction.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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