Here are a few momentous moggies that have made their mark on mankind, though not always in a good way.
Lewis the Criminal
A long-haired, black-and-white tomcat from Connecticut with a knack for anti-social behaviour, Lewis nabbed a place in legal history as the first cat ever to be placed under official house arrest. The malevolent mog had terrorised neighbours and a passing saleswoman with unprovoked attacks.
The case made headlines across the US in 2006, with supporters starting a Myspace page and selling T-shirts to fundraise for Lewis’s defence against the very real possibility of euthanasia. The feline felon was eventually allowed to live, on the condition that his owner kept her cat indoors for two years.
Felicette the Astronaut
Daring to boldly go where no cat had gone before, Felicette became the first feline in space aboard a French launch capsule in 1963, and remains the only cat to return to Earth alive.
After blasting off from a desert base in Algeria, Felicette survived 15 minutes of sub-orbital flight, before gently drifting groundward via a specially designed parachute. Even at the time, doing this to a cat was controversial, and Felicette was recently memorialised in bronze outside the International Space University in Strasbourg.
Tibbles the Exterminator
To us, cats are cute and cuddly, but out in the wild they’re vicious killers, and among the 100 worst invasive species in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. So it was for Tibbles, an otherwise unremarkable lighthouse keeper’s cat credited with single-handedly wiping out an entire species.
The flightless Stephens Island wren was once widespread in New Zealand, but by the late 19th century hunting by rats and settlers relegated it to a single square mile outcrop not far from Wellington. There the tiny birds lived in harmony until Tibbles arrived at the local lighthouse, and promptly polished them off.
Orangey the Movie Star
A two-time Patsy Award winner (basically the Oscars for animals), and protege of legendary Hollywood animal trainer Frank Inn, Orangey is perhaps best known for his role as ‘Cat’ in Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A versatile star, other credits include The Dick Van Dyke Show and 1962 screwball comedy Gigot.
His ability to stay still for long periods made him a consummate professional, but off-camera he was a classic Hollywood prima donna. Prone to wandering off and treating co-stars and crew with hostility, one exec reportedly called him “the world’s meanest cat”.
Unsinkable Sam the Sailor
A mouser and mascot for warships during World War Two, Unsinkable Sam miraculously survived three separate sinkings in the space of just six months – the German battleship Bismarck, the British destroyer HMS Cossack, and British aircraft carrier the HMS Ark Royal. Each time, he floated to safety on debris and continued to serve with whoever pulled him from the water.
Historians have since suggested that aspects of Unsinkable Sam’s myth might be the product of sea stories, but his legend lives on regardless. Despite his heroic knack for self-preservation, one could argue that he wasn’t a very good mascot, as his ships didn’t tend to last very long.
What would your cat be famous for? Do you know of any more that should be on this list?
– With PA
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