10 Cats Who Made History


Trim, Discoverer of Australia

Trim, statue of cat
A statue of Trim, Matthew Flinders' cat, sits on a window ledge in the Mitchell wing of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney. Rcbutcher/Wikimedia

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people believed Australia was a collection of islands. Not so Capt. Matthew Flinders of England. Convinced Australia was a continent, he sailed there in 1790 and again in 1797. During his latter trip, a cat on the ship gave birth to a litter of kittens. One of them was Trim, a jet-black feline with a white star on his chest and four white paws [source: Roberts].

Flinders and his crew quickly fell in love with Trim, impressed with his energy, exceptional balance, intelligence and unusual indifference to getting wet. Over the next few years, Trim accompanied Flinders several more times as he circumnavigated the Australian continent. Flinders even wrote a long essay on Trim's many virtues — for instance he could do many tricks, such as jumping over a seaman's clasped hands.

Then tragedy struck one year when Flinders and his crew had to stop in Mauritius for repairs. The island was controlled by the French, who were at war with England, so Flinders, Trim and another officer were imprisoned. Later Trim was taken away from the men, supposedly to be cared for by a woman. But she quickly lost Trim, who was never seen again. A grief-stricken Flinders promised to erect a memorial to his accomplished cat, but died shortly after his seven-year imprisonment and before fulfilling his promise.

Flinders and Trim were both eventually honored for their maritime achievements. In 1925, a statue of Flinders was erected at Australia's State Library of New South Wales; an accompanying bronze statue of Trim on a window ledge directly behind Flinders' memorial was built in 1996. Trim's statue is very popular, as is the library's café, named in his honor.