Monday, August 21, 2017

Four Notable Cats From History

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Cats are often thought of as the pets in the background. They’ll let you know when they want attention but don’t often call attention to themselves. Stories have been written about dogs who were faithful to their masters until the end. But what about cats? What cats have had their stories told? I found there were quite a few. I’ll begin with one from around the 9th century A.D.

By Isasza - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Perhaps Pangur Ban looked something like this inquisitive feline.
An Irish monk sat bent over his work in the scriptorium of an abbey in Germanic territory. Near his feet scrambled his feline friend preying on an unsuspecting mouse. In the companionable silence the anonymous monk composed a poem for his cat, which he’d named Pangur Ban, translated “white fuller.” Here is the first verse of a modern translation of the monk’s ode to his pet:

The Scholar and His Cat, Pangur Ban

(Translated by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night . . .

The rest of this sweet poem can be found here:

The page on which Pangur Ban was written.
By The original uploader was Dbachmann at English Wikipedia - T
ransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.,
Public Domain,
From 1799 to 1804, Trim was the brave seafaring cat of Captain Matthew Flinders. Captain Flinders was on the first voyage to sail around Australia. He also drew the first accurate maps of the island continent and the one who first called it Australia. For such an explorer only an extraordinary cat would do.

Matthew Flinders' account of his voyage.
By State Library of New South Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0 au,

Trim was born on the ship Roundabout as it sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Flinders was taken with the kitten who was black, except for a white chin, a star on his chest, and four white paws which looked as though they were “dipped in snow.” The captain thought Trim was quite vain about his snow white paws as he would stretch out his front paws in front of him as the crew marched by. Trim quite enjoyed their admiration. 

The kitten, who sometimes fell overboard, liked to swim and when a rope was thrown to him would “grab it like a man and run up it like a cat” according to Flinders. The crew trained Trim to lie on his back with his four feet in the air until given a signal to roll over and stand. He even walked forward and backward on command.
By en:User:PanBK -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
A statue memorializing Trim
Trim also would sit politely on the ship’s dining table, waiting for everyone to be served. He would then put out his paw and go to each a of the crew for a morsel he felt was due to him. When Trim wasn’t obliged he would take it from the crewman’s fork when he least suspected.

This intelligent cat went on to survive a shipwreck with Captain Flinders and returned to England. But in 1804 Trim met his demise on Mauritius while Flinders was accused of being a spy and imprisoned by the French for several years. Once Flinders was released he wrote a biographical tribute to his well-loved kitty and also wrote journals recounting his voyages before he died in 1814. You can find his tribute of Trim here.

By Rodney Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.
Trim the Cat, at the feet of his master.
Long before the famous Socks of the Clinton White House of the 1990s, Abraham Lincoln kept the first “official” White House cats. When leaving Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln felt it best for his dog, Fido, to be left behind. Some time after arriving Washington, D.C. William Seward presented Lincoln with two cats, who became known as Tabby and Dixie. 

President Lincoln was very fond of cats and was known to hold the cats on his lap, wipe their eyes with his handkerchief, and talk to them for up to a half hour. After Tabby and Dixie had grown into adult cats they continued to keep the president company. During the war and his first term, Lincoln said of Dixie that she “is smarter than my whole cabinet” and observed that the cat didn’t talk back either.

President Abraham Lincoln by
Alexander Gardner {PD}
Lincoln continued to dote on the cats and one time fed Tabby at the dining table during a formal White House dinner off of a gold fork. When Mrs. Lincoln scolded the president out of her embarrassment saying that what he’d done in front of the guest was “shameful,” he told her, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan then it is good enough for Tabby.”

Abraham Lincoln’s love for cats extended beyond Tabby and Dixie as he was known to take in strays. I would say Tabby and Dixie had indeed found a loving home.
Next month I will share three heartwarming cat stories from World War II.

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and the novella, The Pocket Watch. She is a longtime member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 35 years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.


  1. Thank you for this great notable cats from history. Cats are a lot of company, entertaining and can alert their owners of someone being on the property (I have one that does this).

    1. They can be a lot of fun, especially if they have a lot of personality like my kitty does. :) That's cool that your cat warns you about someone being on your property--a watch cat! Thank you for your comment, Marilyn, and for stopping by.

  2. I love this post!!! Thanks for the information!

    1. Thank you, Connie. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. It was fun to write.

  3. What a fun post! Heading off to share it on my Facebook page right now ... and then dashing out to hopefully see a solar eclipse (although we have some cloud cover right now),

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! And thank you so much for sharing. Wish I had the special glasses for the eclipse. We did observe the shadows on the sidewalk though and will watch a broadcast of it later.

  4. I love reading about cats, especially Trim, who sometimes fell overboard. lol Poor kitty. Thanks, Kathleen.

    1. I thought you would like this post, Nancy. :) Yes, I thought Trim was quite the cat! I couldn't imagine a poor little kitten repeatedly falling in the ocean and getting back on board like that. Amazing!