Kiddo, the first cat to attempt crossing the Atlantic Ocean by air
August 8, 2018 9:36 PM   Subscribe

"On October 15, 1910, Kiddo the cat became the first of his kind to attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean by airship—and he wasn’t very happy about it."

While taking off from Atlantic City, NJ for an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean the crew of the airship America found a grey tabby in the airship's lifeboat. The America was the first airship to have radio equipment, a spark-gap transmitter for wireless telegraphy. Kiddo has the distinction of being the subject of the first ever radio communication from an aircraft in flight: "Roy, come and get this goddamn cat."

Unfortunately weather and other problems forced the America to abandon the crossing attempt. The crew and Kiddo had to ditch the America and take to a lifeboat which was subsequently rescued by the steamship SS Trent. After the rescue Kiddo was renamed Trent in honor of the the steamship, and after being displayed in a Gimbel's department store window Kiddo went on to live a quiet life. Kiddo never flew again. In 2010 the lifeboat of the airship America became part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
posted by Rob Rockets (21 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea how this cat got onto my airship, or why.
posted by RobotHero at 9:50 PM on August 8, 2018 [44 favorites]

When I was very young, my family lost a cat to it stowing away on a vehicle. We hope that poor Badger found a new life, wherever he parted ways with us.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:14 PM on August 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I can't even. 10 minutes in the bus to the vet is bad enough with the MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW meow MEOW!

I would not make it across the Atlantic. They'd find me dead from stress with a cat sitting on me.

"Kiddo never flew again". And everyone was the happier for it.

I am very pleased everyone was rescued and Trent was suitable honoured. Lovely story.
posted by kitten magic at 11:35 PM on August 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

I am happy to report after reading TFA that "Kiddo became more comfortable and settled down to become an excellent flying companion. Navigator Murray Simon wrote that he was ‘more useful than any barometer.’ And that ‘You must never cross the Atlantic in an airship without a cat.’ He slept comfortably in a lifeboat and seemed to only become agitated when he sensed there was weather trouble ahead."

In conclusion, Kiddo was a good cat, and very handsome.
posted by saturday_morning at 11:53 PM on August 8, 2018 [22 favorites]

When I was very young, my family lost a cat to it stowing away on a vehicle.

When I was a kid, our cat disappeared for a few weeks. He showed up later, all skinny and with his little paw pads scuffed and worn. He was back to his old self soon enough, and then one day the Jewel Tea man came. He took a look at Tabby and said, "Oh my God! Is that your cat? I stopped in [city 50 miles away] one day and when I got out of the truck, this cat jumped out with me, and I didn't know where he'd come from."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:57 PM on August 8, 2018 [18 favorites]

Reading the headline, I somehow got the impression that Kiddo was the sole occupant, some sort of live test subject like Laika the soviet space dog. So apart from the fact that I am becoming increasingly worried about my ability to read for meaning it was a welcome resolution to realise Kiddo had company and survived.
posted by biffa at 2:27 AM on August 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

Coincidence that this particular airship ditched into the Atlantic? I think not. Somebody alert Samuel L. Jackson - - I smell a sequel to his 2006 Snakes On A Plane!
posted by fairmettle at 2:43 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kiddo has the distinction of being the subject of the first ever radio communication from an aircraft in flight:

This was the ur-ritual that led to feline dominance on the Internet.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:31 AM on August 9, 2018 [17 favorites]

Recently I put up my hammock and started sleeping in it again, which has confused the hell out of my housemate's cat, who used to happily not only curl up with me in my bed but even sometimes push me half out of it with her remarkably compact bulk and size. Looks like a small grey cat from all angles, somehow expands not only to 4x the volume, but also the mass once sat upon, say, you.

Well, the cat isn't having the hammock at all and it's taken some time to get her to relax even at all while, say, cradled or perched in my lap or on my stomach or chest. Even the slightest movement or swing made her wobble and worry about the strange movement of the hammock. And after several weeks I got her to chill out and actually relax in my lap for scritches for a good five minutes, with just a slight sway to the hammock.

What I'm trying to get at is I'm not buying this airship cat story for a goddamn second. Someone intentionally put that cat on board that airship and took great (and likely actual) pains to keep it there until the ship was too far from the ground for the cat to jump.

This was some dumb monkey's fault, not the cat. Have these historians even met a cat? Ok, maybe there's a lot of string but the other 99.9% is essentially vacuum cleaner.
posted by loquacious at 3:57 AM on August 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yesterday was International Cat Day! Missed it by just a few minutes, but still highly appropriate for MetaFilter.

Great post!
posted by Fizz at 4:51 AM on August 9, 2018

Reminds me of the plane cat from a few years back. Cats are really good at finding cozy secret nooks to hang out in, and not so good at figuring out if those nooks belong to a vehicle that may later be in motion. There is probably a confused cat waking up in the back of your moving car or on your transatlantic flight right now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:00 AM on August 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

True Story: I grew up on a farm, but my dad's job was in the city. When I was a teenager I would ride to work with my dad in the summertime and work at his tire store. This was a monster drive - 45 miles, an hour and a half most days - in a 1994 Ford F-150. On this one morning, I kept hearing this noise, and I was convinced it was a cat. My dad, of course, kept telling me I was crazy, that there way no way on this long drive, there was a cat somewhere on the truck.

Cut to us arriving at the store, and I am 100% sure there is a cat somewhere on the truck. I ended up laying down on the asphalt, listening, and finally, out of the undercarriage of the truck appears A KITTEN. This cat had made the entire 45 miles with us in interstate traffic and somehow had not ever jumped off when we were stopped or fallen out of where ever he was hidden. And for some reason he came out and let me catch him, and I kept him in a box in the bathroom all day, until we took him home that night.

Cats are amazing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:10 AM on August 9, 2018 [17 favorites]

10 minutes in the bus to the vet is bad enough with the MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW meow MEOW!

My cat did not like the cat carrier. At all. At one of my old apartments, whenever I had to take him to the vet, I would walk north two blocks to a main road where it was way easier to get a cab (this was in the days before Lyft). But this still called for putting up with the yowls for the entire walk down four flights of stairs and north two blocks.

One time when i was making this journey, there were a couple cops in conversation on the corner a block before my cab-hail point. When I was approaching them, they turned to stare at me - and then cracked up. "So that's your cat?" one said.


"And do you live in that building there?" they pointed at my building. I nodded. They laughed again. "We were hearing that noise coming from your building and we were just talking about whether we should go investigate for an assault in progress!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on August 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Cats don't seem to travel well. The owner should have known to use a vet that's a lot closer than Europe... or at least use a crate.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

kiddo? more like cute-o!

my cats would hate this so much
posted by supermedusa at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2018

Actually, now I know what I am dressing my cat up like for Halloween.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:30 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by evilDoug at 11:42 AM on August 9, 2018

Thanks for this post. What a good cat!
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2018

When I was younger, I went to meet my landlady at the door. The upstairs tenant had been evicted and she was there to assess the damage. I was greeted by a yowling black kitten. My landlady had gotten a ride from her friend 35 miles away; they had stopped at a gas station just outside my city where they found the kitten, crouched atop the ENGINE. Landlady and friend were NOT cat people, so they just let him out of the car when they got to our duplex. She had no issue with me taking him in. He was a great cat, but yeah, he hated to ride in cars.
posted by annieb at 11:49 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wish airships were still a thing, there's something charming about a floating ship that modern airplanes and blimps don't cover.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:58 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here's another feline airship story, during the Graf Zeppelin's 1929 flight around the world:
Lady Hay was no longer alone in her cabin: she had found a new companion who was now sleeping soundlessly on her bed. Though the Graf was carefully searched immediately prior to departure, a stowaway of sorts successfully eluded discovery until earlier that day. Hungry, shivering, and distressed, a small black kitten was found in the depths of the ship's vast and and complex interior by a rigger on a tour of inspection, and with Dr. Eckener's blessing it was brought to the only woman on board for a little necessary care and affection.
After traveling non-stop all the way across Europe and Asia, they landed in Japan, and flew away five days later.
But there was one unhappy note. The little black cat that had been the airship's mascot on the flight to Tokyo was missing. It had disappeared during the first day at Kasumigaura, and an intensive search had failed to find it. It now seemed likely it had walked off the ship after landing and chosen to take up residence in Japan.
Luckiest cat ever IMO.
posted by Rash at 2:36 PM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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