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.
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.
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.