Cats in the 19th Century (Part 5 – Famous Cat Lovers)

Not only did 19th century politicians and presidents love cats as discussed in our last post, but there were also many other famous cat lovers of the time. Hiram Bingham (1789-1869), an American missionary who translated the bible into Hawaiian, was devotedly accompanied by his cat Barnabus.

Hiram Bingham, famous cat lover

Hiram Bingham


The famous British nurse and humanitarian Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) owned more than 60 cats during her lifetime, mostly Persians; some even ventured with her on her many journeys.  One of the more memorable of her pets was named Mr. Bismarck.  Mr. Bismarck was just one of the reputed 17 cats that shared their lives with Florence Nightingale after she returned to London from the Crimean War. She described him as “the most sensitive of cats” and his paw prints frequently autographed her correspondence. Other members of her feline family included Big Pussie, Tom, Topsy, Tib, Gladstone, Mrs Tit, Mr Muff, Quiz. Nightingale was chronically ill in later years and took refuge in her cats who, she said, possessed much more sympathy and feeling than human beings. When she died in 1910, it was no surprise to learn that she had made provision for her remaining cats in her will (Bostridge, 2008). 


Florence Nightingale famous cat lovers

Florence Nightingale


Pope Leo XII (1823-29), loved his cat Micetto.  As a kitten, Micetto hid in the Pope’s papal sleeve peering out at those being given audiences. 


Pope Leo XII famous cat lovers

Pope Leo XII


Even Queen Victoria (1837-1901), loved cats especially one named White Heather. Queen Victoria is usually portrayed as having been an austere woman and lacking in humor (“we are not amused”). However, she was a noted animal lover, and she and her dearly lamented deceased husband, Prince Albert, offered a warm and loving home to many cats. She truly doted on her last cat, White Heather, who, on her orders, remained living a royal cat’s luxurious life at Buckingham Palace long after the queen herself had died. White Heather is described as having been a fluffy, white, Persian or Angora.


Queen Victoria Photo by Bassano 1882 famous cat lovers

Queen Victoria
Photo by Bassano


It was also Queen Victoria who insisted that a cat be included in the picture on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queen’s Medal of Kindness insisting that something must be done about the general aversion to cats, “which were generally misunderstood and grossly ill-treated.” (Rogers, 2006 p. 48).


RSPCA Bronze Medal with cat on the right.

RSPCA Bronze Medal
with cat on the right.



Bostridge, Mark. (2008). Florence Nightingale: the woman and her legend . Viking.

 Rogers, Katharine. (2006). The cat. Reaktion Books Ltd.


Want to know more about the cat in history, art and literature?  Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you.  Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 



Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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