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The dog may be man's best friend, but at sea it was the cat that sailors relied on to make life bearable. Now an ex-hibition celebrating the very special animal that was the ship's cat has opened at the Tall Ship visitor attraction at Glasgow Harbour.

All Paws on Deck tells the story of cats at sea in just eight nicely- illustrated information panels, complemented by some delightful photographs, a handful of objects (including a very life-like toy cat in a miniature ship's hammock) and rare film footage of an actual ship's cat at sea.

Designed and curated by museum education officer Lisa Gaston, this compact family show begins with some background information about feline and human interaction, noting that cats were among the animals worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians and pointing out that, according to research, cats were probably a part of shipboard life as long ago as 5000 BC. The rest of the exhibition focuses on lucky cats, naval cats and five well-known ships' cats (including one from the south side of Glasgow), some of them so famous they received fan mail, had books written about them and statues erected in their honour.

Ports being a great source of mice and rats and, therefore, a magnet for cats, it's probable that the tradition of the ship's cat came about by accident, with the first resident felines being stowaways. However, when the sailors saw how good cats were at controlling shipboard vermin (and providing a bit of comfort to homesick crew members), they were keen to keep them happy "with kind words and treats".

All Paws on Deck runs until August 30 and is included in the admission price to the Tall Ship "S.V. Glenlee".


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