"Warm Devotion": Jenny the Ship Cat

On April 10, 1912, at 12:00 p.m., Titanic set off from Southampton.

And, since people love a good conspiracy theory, there are countless rumors of passengers and crew experiencing a sense of foreboding, some even going so far as to cancel their passage.

And one of those was a tabby cat named Jenny.

Jenny was a cat and Titanic's official mouser, transferred from the RMS Olympic to its new sister Titanic, to stymie the inevitable vermin population on board.

As any nautically inclined individuals will attest, cats were common on board sailing vessels of all sorts. They were pest control agents and predictors of bad weather. They were companions. And, of course, they were supposed to bring good luck.

In short, ship cats were beloved. And there are many stories of prescient ship cats throughout the years.

Jenny, Titanic's cat, was no exception.

Captain A J. Bailey of the R.M.S. Empress of Canada with the ship's cat, circa 1922. From the Rare Books and Special Collections, courtesy of the University of British Columbia Library.


About a week prior to Titanic's departure, Jenny birthed a litter.

Jenny and her babies were tended to and fed scraps from the kitchens by a crewmember named Jim Mulholland, who boarded in Belfast for the Delivery Run to Southampton.

Stewardess and Woman-Famous-For-Surviving-Disasters-On-All-Three-Doomed-Olympic-Class-Vessels, Violet Jessop, wrote in her memoirs that Jenny "laid her family near Jim, the scullion, whose approval she always sought and who always gave her warm devotion."

Sailor with ship cat and kitten, circa 1910. From the Samuel J. Hood Studio Collection, courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum.


Jim had been considering working through Titanic's maiden voyage when shortly after docking at Southampton, Jim saw Jenny trot down the gangplank with her kitten in her mouth. Jenny then returned to the galley and retrieved the others, one by one, until all were on the quay and off the Titanic.

Titanic docked in Southampton and dressed in flags on Good Friday, April 5, 1912.


Jim watched until Jenny had disappeared with her babies.

He saw her departure as an omen and followed her lead, turning down the trip and extra pay and disembarking before Titanic set sail.

This story was first reported in the Irish News Global Edition.

Ship cat on the H.M.A.S. Encounter circa 1914 to 1918. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.


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