Were There Cats Aboard RMS Titanic?

RMS Titanic, leaving Southampton

April 14th and 15th mark the 100th anniversary of RMS Titanic striking an iceberg and sinking in the north Atlantic. Since then Titanic has featured in hundreds of books, scores of movies, and dozens of websites.

Rather than rehash topics so exhaustively covered, I’m inclined to correct an (admittedly minor) error. Quite a few  websites have incorrectly claimed there were no cats aboard. In fact there were at least two and very probably more. Indeed, as early as the 1600s Louis XIV  ordered that all French ships were to carry two cats. Most ships of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including military vessels, carried one or more cats to help keep down rats, and as mascots, for good luck.  Other liners from the Titanic era, such as the Lusitania and the Empress of Ireland, carried cats as part of the crew.

We have statements from Titanic crew and passengers that there were plenty of rats aboard.  A fireman/stoker named Jack Podesta saw half a dozen rats running through the boiler room on April 13th. Mary Katherine Gilnagh, a survivor from third class, saw a rat scurry past her in the third common area on April 14th. Certainly the Titanic would have followed the general practice of the day, and kept cats, to keep the rodent problem under control.  Being such a large vessel, the Titanic undoubtedly would have had several.

Third Class common area where Kate Gilnagh saw a rat.

We have evidence for this from two of the Titanic crew. A fireman/stoker named Mulholland (whether this was  J. or Daniel I have been unable to verify. Both are on the crew list.) saw one of the cats, named Mouser (though that may refer to her duty as opposed to her name), removing her kittens from Titanic when the ship docked at Southampton. He was a member of the delivery crew, but was considering staying on for the maiden voyage. Supposedly, the cat’s action changed his mind.

Violet Jessop, while serving on Brittanic

Stewardess Violet Jessop (who also served on Brittanic, Titanic’s ill-fated sister) mentions a cat named Jenny, with a litter of kittens, who lived in the galley. Stories have circulated that this was the cat who carried her kittens off at Southampton but Violet saw this cat after Titanic left the port. She also mentions a “pantry cat”, that may be distinct from Jenny or Mouser, though I have been unable to find more information to confirm or deny it.

It seems unlikely that Jenny alone served as rodent control for a ship the size of Titanic. Certain departments may each have had their own ‘pest control officer’. Was Mouser the engineering department cat, like Jenny was the galley cat?  At this late date we may never know, but I think it is likely. In any event, we know that Titanic had at least one cat (Jenny), probably two (Mouser) and likely more.

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5 Responses to Were There Cats Aboard RMS Titanic?

  1. Julie Ann says:

    Thanks Mac!

  2. Julie Ann says:

    AS a cat lover I’ve always thought cats were psychic and the cat that abandoned the ship with kittens in tow affirms my belief!

    • mac1949 says:

      I think that’s very true. There is definitely something mystical and otherworldly about all cats. Possibly part of why they were once considered gods.

  3. Tarissa says:

    Hi!I just found your blog, and quite interested in your posts… especially this one about cats on the Titanic. I’ve been doing an intense study on the Titanic this year! I have a whole bunch of information that I posted on my blog for almost every day in April about it. So, this post of yours is the first one I had to read because of the subject matter! I have heard of Jenny the cat which Violet J. spoke of, and I’ve also heard of the cat which the stoker spoke of. I’ve always considered the two incidents to concern the same cat, but now you have me curious…. Was there more than 1 cat aboard the Titanic!? A singular question! Surely, with the ship’s immense size, there was more than just 1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

    • mac1949 says:

      Thanks for reading. The subject of ‘working’ cats at sea has always fascinated me. It’s something rarely written about, yet references can be found going all the way back to the Phoenicians!

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