Yes, Florence Nightingale did have pets. Wikipedia tells us that she had a pet owl called Athena. She rescued the owl in Athens and hand reared it. This makes the next bit of information rather extraordinary because I’m also told that Florence Nightingale (“Lady of the Lamp”), the founder of modern nursing, owned 60 cats during her lifetime.
All her cats were large Persians. Florence refused to travel anywhere without her current favorites and named her cats after the famous men of her day. For example, she had three cats called Disraeli, Gladstone and Bismarck.
She once said that cats possess more sympathy and feeling than humans. She clearly loved animals and she was correct!
There is not one photograph of Florence Nightingale with any of her cats. I don’t think this is because she did not want to be photographed with her cats. I think it’s a technical problem. In those days the camera exposures were often long, perhaps a second or more and it would have been impractical to keep a cat still for two or three seconds and therefore a photograph of her with her cats was not attempted.
Source: We Love Cats by Vernon Coleman.