8 Cats Who Were Famous Before the web Was Invented

Just like dogs, it doesn’t take much for a cat to become famous nowadays, if you’ve got access to a camera and an honest understanding of how social media works. But in the past, cats didn’t get to play the piano on YouTube to travel viral. Here are a number of the simplest known cats in history, before history went digital:

Caterina, the cat who owned Edgar Allan Poe
Writers and cats go together like pints of frozen dessert and spoons, so it’s no surprise that Edgar Allan Poe’s cat makes the list. While Poe wrote a terrifying (of course) tale called “The fisher,” his actual cat was a tortoiseshell, named Catterina. She reportedly perched on his shoulder as he sat right down to write, probably to offer him storytelling pointers. Caterina also attended Mrs. Poe, who was losing a battle with tuberculosis, by lying next to her to stay her company until the top. Catherine reportedly died shortly after Poe himself died. Perhaps she was a figment of Poe’s imagination, or, more likely, he was a figment of hers.

Snowball, the cat who owned Hemingway
Renowned writer Hemingway kept many cats throughout his life, but his first was an all-white kitten named Snowball gifted to him by a ship captain named Stanley Dexter. What made Snowball unusual is he was polydactyl, having six toes on his front paws rather than the standard five — cats with extra toes are considered lucky stumped. Snowball lived a pleasant happy life in sunny Key West, Florida.

Why he’s so famous is that his many descendants still live at the Hemingway Home and Museum, and lots of them even have extra toes. And in 2017, all 54 of the present generation of Hemingway cats survived the wrath of Hurricane Irma, so I assume they’re lucky ashore, too.

Morris, the cat who owned 9Lives cat chow
Probably the foremost famous advertising cat within the world, Morris began because the spokes-person for Purina’s iconic pet food in typical Hollywood fashion — he was discovered by talent scouts. Adopted from a shelter, the “finicky” orange tiger-striped cat first appeared in print in 1968, and until 1978 was the foremost popular cat within the world.

When the first Morris died, a replacement Morris — also a rescue cat — took up the mantle as pitch-cat. There are other Morrises to follow since, as a beacon not just for pet food, but also pet adoption and rescue. the present Morris lives it up in l. a., California.

All Ball, the cat who researched Koko the Gorilla
Koko the gorilla, the primary non-human to be ready to communicate in signing, had an easy request for Christmas in 1983: she wanted a kitten. Her research team tried giving her a stuffed toy but she wanted a true one. After much deliberation, they decided to let her adopt a kitten for her birthday in 1984. Koko chose one out of a litter, a male Manx kitten with no tail, and signed the cat’s name as All Ball.

Koko and every one Ball made headlines everywhere on the planet as she took gentle care of him as if he were her baby. But it had been to not last; after just a year together, All Ball got out of the research building and was struck by a car. Koko was inconsolable, signing “bad sad” over and once again. While she eventually got more kittens, she never forgot All Ball.

Room 8, the cat who visited the school
Room 8 was an enormous gray tabby that wandered into Elysian Heights grade school in Southern California at some point in 1952. Named for his “homeroom,” he patrolled the grounds fastidiously; he came to high school a day during the year, and through summer recess we assume he took a sabbatical to an aviary.

He became the school’s mascot and was beloved, subject of books and films, and even a fashion spread in Look magazine. He finally retired over the Rainbow Bridge at 22 years old and was buried with honors at the famous l. a. Pet cemetery.

Sam, the cat who sank the Bismarck
This cat might not have polydactyl toes but he sure was lucky, though an equivalent can’t be said of his ships. His first assignment was on a really famous vessel; unfortunately, it had been the Bismarck, a German battleship famous for A) being supposedly unsinkable and B) being sunk on its maiden voyage.

The cat was found floating on bits of the shipwreck by British Royal Navy and brought aboard and given the name Oscar (what his name was aboard the German ship is unknown). He then went on to sink two more ships within the same way and was renamed Unsinkable Sam. The Navy finally got wise and gave Sam to a sailor who had gone ashore, and as far as we all know, caused no more maritime disasters.

Trim, the cat who discovered Australia
Way back within the late 18th century, when sailing around “discovering” things was a career, Captain Flinders took his cat with him. Trim, a tuxedo, served on Flinders’ ship HMS Reliance then on HMS Investigator, which mapped the whole circumference of Australia between 1801 and 1803.

However, on his return to England, Captain Flinders was captured by the French, due to a touching war with Napoleon, and he and Trim were imprisoned on the island of Mauritius for a time. Flinders survived and was released; Trim however went missing and Flinders assumed he was eaten by another prisoner. There are statues of Flinders and his faithful companion Trim in both his English hometown and in several Australian cities.

Tabby and Dixie, the cats who ruled the White House
Tabby and Dixie were two kittens gifted to President Lincoln by his secretary of state William Seward in 1861, and that they became the primary official White Housepets. Although technically Tabby belonged to Lincoln’s son Tad, Tabby and Abe were fast friends.

Lincoln reportedly even fed the cats at the table during formal dinners, claiming Dixie was smarter than his entire cabinet. When a reporter asked Mary Todd Lincoln if the president had any hobbies, she replied: “Cats.”

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