The Legend of Jenny, the 'Titanic' Cat Said to Have Predicted the Ship's Fate

Cat standing in front of ship's porthole window.
Cat standing in front of ship's porthole window. / Auckland War Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

In addition to the 2240 people aboard the RMS Titanic when it struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, there were roughly a dozen pets. The ship’s dogs—only three of which made it off the sinking ship—have become an interesting footnote in the tragic tale. Less is known about the cat that was aboard the vessel in its final weeks. Like so many aspects of the Titanic saga, the story of Jenny the cat is shrouded in legend.

Titanic’s resident feline, who joined the ship while it was still in Belfast, didn’t receive the same first-class treatment as the canine passengers that boarded the ocean liner with their owners. Jenny was a ship cat, meaning she was allowed to roam the decks freely and help keep the rat population under control. With no one to smuggle her into a lifeboat—as was the case with two lucky Pomeranians and one Pekingese on board—Jenny’s story likely didn’t have a happy ending. The cat never turned up after the ship sank into the Atlantic, and she was presumed dead

But rumors attached to Jenny put a brighter spin on her voyage. Stewardess Violet Jessop (who made it off Titanic in between surviving disasters onboard the Olympic and Britannic) reported that the cat gave birth to a litter of kittens in early April 1912, before the Titanic departed for New York. Once on board the ship, Jenny claimed a cozy corner of the galley where she and her newborns were cared for by an Irish stoker named Joseph Mulholland (who is also called Jim in some sources).

According to one telling of her story, Jenny didn’t keep her offspring on the ocean liner for very long. When the Titanic left Belfast and docked at Southampton to prepare for its first voyage, Mulholland reportedly saw the cat transport her kittens to dry land one by one and abandon the ship. The crew member took this as a bad omen and let the boat leave without him. A few days later, both Jenny and Mulholland’s instincts were proven to be well-founded.

Based on this legend, Titanic’s cat was able anticipate what its builders and crew had deemed impossible. In addition to sparing her kittens and herself, Jenny may have saved the life of at least one crewmember. This optimistic story has never been confirmed, but as long as Jenny’s true fate remains a mystery, the legend of the Titanic’s possibly psychic ship cat will live on.