Myth Busters: Does A Black Cat Bring Good Luck To A Ship?

Myth or Fact

Cadets were asked to pack a variety of items for Sea Term 2023.  The list provided to the cadets included sunscreen, insect repellent, soap, shampoo, and foot powder.  One item not on the list?  A black cat! 

You probably think that it’s crazy to even mention packing a black cat, right?  Aren’t they thought to bring bad luck?  And Captain Campbell wouldn’t allow cadets to bring cats on board the TS Kennedy, would he?

British and Irish sailors once believed that bringing a black cat on a ship would bring good luck to the vessel and those that sailed on it.  When you look at this superstition with a practical eye, it does make sense.  Most ships that transported grain also carried unwanted rats and mice.  The cat was happy to put an end to the pesky rodents. 

Some sailors placed even greater importance on a polydactyl cat.  It does make sense that a cat born with extra toes would have a much better sense of balance on a rocking ship.  Balance was especially important considering some sailors feared that if a ship’s cat fell overboard, there would be nine years of bad luck for the vessel and the crew.

Polydactyl cat paw

The most famous black cat at sea sailed aboard the German battleship, Bismarck.  His original name was Oscar, until the Bismarck sank in 1941.  Oscar was one of the few survivors.  After that, the fortunate feline was called Unsinkable Sam.  His good luck continued.  He was aboard when the HMS Cossack when torpedoed and was sailing aboard the HMS Ark when she sank.  Unsinkable Sam survived both incidents.  After that, Unsinkable Sam was given a job on land.

Cat and sailor on deck

Another famous black cat was Simon, the official rat catcher of the HMS Amethyst. Simon was working aboard the ship during the Yangtze Incident in 1949.  He was wounded in the battle, but survived.  When Simon recovered, he returned to catching rats. His friendship was a great morale booster to many of the young sailors.

Simon, black cat on a ship

This may sound crazy, but some mariners used to believe that the ship’s cat could predict the weather - and start storms with its tail. 

If a cat sneezed, sailors watched for rain. 

If the feline was especially frisky, the crew braced for strong winds. 

And, if the cat licked its fur in the direction opposite of how it grew, word quickly spread that a hail storm was imminent.

Do you think that cats can predict the weather?


Aboard the TS Kennedy, the Bridge is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments that track the weather, allowing Captain Campbell and the cadets to make accurate predictions.  There’s no need to rely on a cat for a weather forecast.

Thankfully, all the cadets remembered to leave their pets at home.  Although the Campbell family is the proud owners of these two black cats, Captain Campbell has no intention of making them part of the TS Kennedy crew.

Captain Campbell's black cat
Captain Campbell's black cat

There is no need for a black cat aboard the TS Kennedy or any other ship.