This photo from WW2 of a ship’s cat in a custom made hammock reminds me of the most famous cat of that era, Simon. He was also a black-and-white moggy and he was awarded the VC for animals, the Dickin Medal. Simon survived the war but died after he returned home to Britain because of the cold. He was ship’s cat in the Far East where it gets much hotter. I don’t know anything about the cat in the photo except what I can glean from looking at it. The sailors look genuinely interested in the cat. They look fond of him especially the guy sitting next to him. I expect that he made the hammock and is rightly rather proud of his work. The cat looks comfortable.
You wonder how cats survived these warships. What if the cat fell ill? There’d be no vet onboard. I guess the medic dealt with it but it wouldn’t be great. And neither would the food. Back in those days cats got kitchen scraps. Cat food existed, of course, but it was no where near as sophisticated as today’s. I can see ships’ cats getting ill quite frequently and dying. They did a good job of keeping mice infestations down and entertaining the sailors who like cats.
You may know that going further back in time when the first settlers travelled to America they believed that polydactyl cats were better ‘sailors’ as they had one extra toe to keep then steady on deck. This is why the Hemingway cats were often polydactyl. They are the descendents of the original ships’ cats.
The Dickin Medal is named after Maria Dickin, the founder of the The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in the UK. She was remarkable woman. She cared for animal welfare at a time (1917) when relatively few did.
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