Sailors are renowned for their superstitious natures, they like to have cats on board as they are said to bring good luck to a ship. There is also the advantage that cats will dispatch any rats and mice on the ship. They also make playful, affectionate and entertaining companions. Even though cats generally dislike water, they seem to happily take up residence on ships. The migration of cats around the world has been helped by the cat's affinity to ships.
Sailors have had a special, unbroken bond with cats that stretches back to ancient Egypt. Cats' ability to keep vermin at bay meant that they were important and respected "crew members" on any vessel. The weeks, months and even years that ships spent at sea meant that their crews tended to make up their own "faith" - a hotch-potch of practicality and heresy! Although the church once condemned cats as agents of the devil, sailors were far too practical to take heed of it.
Cats were looked upon as good luck charms by sailors, they were believed to have miraculous powers that could protect ships from dangerous weather. Such was the cat's influence that fishermen's wives kept black cats at home to prevent disaster at sea. If a cat approached a sailor on deck, it meant good luck, but if it only came halfway and then retreated, it meant bad luck.
It was a popular belief that cats could start storms through magic stored in their tails - so sailors always made sure that they were well-fed and contented. The worst thing you could do to a cat was to throw it overboard - the ship would encounter a terrible storm and you would have nine years of bad luck. In fact, cats can detect slight changes in the weather. Low atmospheric pressure (which is a warning of stormy weather) often makes cats nervous and restless.
Unsurprisingly, this useful, friendly animal became a very popular companion at sea. A combination of trade and warfare around the world ensured that the cat travelled far.
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