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three cats walking
"In Praise of Cats" New-York tribune. (New York City, New York), September 15, 1907.

7 Random Cat Facts

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If you’re like me, then you can never get enough cats! Here are seven random facts about our furry feline friends, many of which we’ve brought to you from our historical newspaper archive, Chronicling America.

1. Cats at Sea! Friend or Foe?

While cats were once valuable to sailors as “mousers” (because they caught mice) on ships and traveled with people around the globe, they were also believed, as demonstrated in this article, to bring those ships ill-fortune. However, cats have proven themselves as valuable companions at sea in any era. Some examples are Tulip (who had her own hammock on one of the Royal Navy’s ships) and Scouse (the mascot of the H.M.S. Exeter).


man in sailor uniform holding a cat with the title, “Sea Cats” and the caption, “Scouse- He saw the Graf Spree sink.”
“Sea Cats” Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), June 8, 1941.

2. Magic and Cats

Cats have historically had a bad reputation when it comes to their association with witchcraft. While black cats carried the brunt of it, white cats were also the subject of superstition and foreboding tales (see the article, “White Cat: Witchcraft in New England.”) But have no fear, this article from 1939 takes great lengths to debunk these claims.

witch in a room with a cat
“The Black Candle” The Day Book. (Chicago, Illinois), December 4, 1911.

3. Cats in the Postal Service

The Postal Service budgeted for cats acting as mousers in 1909. This article here covers Postmaster-General Hitchock’s allocation of $135 for “cat meat”. They were recognized employees across the country, and I imagine, received “purrfect” performance reviews.

W.H. Haycock, assistant postmaster, holding Jennie the cat.
”Post Office Cat Takes Time Out” Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), August 8, 1926.

4. Mayor Stubbs

“There is no human mayor in the town where Stubbs holds court.” This quote from Fairbanks Daily-News Miner is referring to Stubbs, who was the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, from July 1997, until his death in 2017. This story really gives one “paws” for thought.

Picture of the cat, Mayor Stubbs
“Honorary Cat Mayor Reaches End of 9th Life” Daily Sitka Sentinel. (Sitka, Alaska). July 24, 2017. Retrieved from NewspaperARCHIVE.

5. Cats: Famous Favorites

Celebrities of all ages and nationalities love their feline friends. This article lists Dante, Sir Isaac Newton, and Cardinal Wolsey to name a few. In fact, this article describes the doubtful story of Newton having two cat doors, one for his cat and another for the cat’s baby kitten. If true, then he did not realize the kitten could use the same hole as the larger cat.

newspaper clipping of article titled, "Famous Cat Fanciers"
“Famous Cat Fanciers” Arizona Republican. (Phoenix, Arizona), April 14, 1895.

6. Military Cats

We’ve already established that cats were allowed to work for the postal service and on ships, so it should be no surprise that they served in the military too. “The Colonel” is one such cat, and he served the Army with many other cats, again, catching mice. An additional objective was to prevent the rodents from interfering with the ship’s machinery.

 illustration of cat with caption, “The Colonel. (Father of Gen. Merritt’s Cats for the Phillippines.)”
“Cats for the Army” Alaska Forum. (Rampart, Alaska), July 18, 1901.

7. Too many cats!

While not necessarily a “cat fact,” this article describes an incident in Neligh, Nebraska circa 1910. In this story, a man had intended to put out an advertisement for 10,000 bushels of oat. Instead, he started receiving cats instead. This was due to a typographical error and his order had replaced the “o” with a “c”. Even for me, 10,000 cats seems like too many… maybe.

article about a typo that created confusion whether the request was for oats or cats
“Goodness Gracious” The Jeffersonian. (Atlanta, Georgia.), December 29, 1910.

Well, there you have it! What cool cats can you find using Chronicling America? Let us know in the comments!

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*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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  1. Thanks for this information.

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