As in all man’s endeavors, the cat was destined to accompany him in flight as well. Kiddo, the stray hangar cat, was the first feline to cross the Atlantic in 1910. Taken aboard the dirigible America at Atlantic City, New Jersey, Kiddo was meant to serve as a good luck charm, to enable the flight to achieve its goal of crossing the Atlantic to land in Europe. The airship America was the first aircraft to have radio equipment on board, and the chief navigator, F. Murray Simon, only twenty minutes into the flight noted in his log, “I am chiefly worried by our cat, which is rushing around the airship like a squirrel in a cage.” Jack Irwin, the radio operator, complained that the cat was “raising hell” and “driving him mad” and suggested that perhaps they should leave it behind before they traveled too far. Simon disagreed, arguing, “We must keep the cat at all costs; we can never have luck without a cat aboard.” Even so, the crew took a vote and decided to try to get rid of the unhappy feline by lowering it in a bag into a motorboat from the air, but the sea was too rough, and they ended up having to haul the now terribly disgruntled cat on board the airship again. In what was probably the first air to ground radio transmission the upset chief engineer, Melvin Vaniman, sent a wireless message to the plane’s owner back at base reading, “Roy, come and get this goddamn cat!”
Even though the America did not successfully cross the Atlantic, and the crew and cat had to abandon ship, the airship set other records such as the first air to ground transmission, time aloft and total distance traveled by air. The crew and the cat became celebrities. Kiddo, renamed Trent after the ship that rescued them, was proclaimed the mascot of the Airship America. Kiddo even had a short stint at Gimbel’s department store in New York City, where the recalcitrant grey tabby was displayed in a gilded cage filled with fluffy pillows on which he could lounge. Soon after, he retired from public view and spent the rest of his life with the Edith, the daughter of Walter Wellman (1858-1934) the owner of the airship.
In the same year, Captain Kitty, also known as John Bevins Moisant, never flew without his tabby cat, Mademoiselle Fifi. Moisant was a showman and performed aerial maneuvers and also raced. Fifi accompanied him on at least 14 of his flights as well as his famous flight across the English Channel on August 23, 1910. To accommodate the illustrious feline, Moisant covered the seats with tape so that she could not scratch them and also secured her litter box to the floor on the passenger’s seat side. A daring aviator, Moisant pre-deceased his cat Fifi in an aircrash, in which luckily Fifi did not accompany him.
Another airborne tabby was the kitten, Whoopsy ,later known as Jazz who became the first cat to successfully cross the Atlantic from Britain to America. Smuggled on board by a stowaway, the kitten was a pleasant diversion for the crew. Soon the kitten was announced to be the mascot of the airship until it crashed in 1921. Luckily, Whoopsy did not sustain life threatening injuries.
Even though Charles Lindbergh was not accompanied on his famous trans-Atlantic flight by a cat in 1927, he did own Patsy who was his faithful pal during many of his other flights. When asked why he did not let Patsy come along on the transatlantic flight, he said, “It’s too dangerous a journey to risk the cat’s life.”
A Spanish set of postage stamps featuring famous aviators of the period and dating to 1930 are the first to show a domestic cat. The one peseta stamp pictures Charles Lindbergh and The Spirit of St. Louis taking off as Patsy, Lindbergh’s black kitten, looks on in the right hand corner.
Félicette, a lowly Paris street cat, was the first cat sent into space on the 18th October 1963. Luckily, the French feline survived the 15 minute flight which propelled her some 100 miles into space only to be put to sleep two to three months after the voyage so that scientists could examine the electrodes they had implanted into her brain. Félicette , a martyr to space flight, was duly thanked by being commemorated for her brave service on several postage stamps.