Focus On History
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Focus On History

Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

The Story of Trim — a Truly Remarkable Seafaring Cat

If you are ever walking around Sydney in Australia and find yourself near the State Library, look out for a statue of a cat. Looking alert, right paw at the ready, below is a plaque embossed with a dedication by his owner, Captain Matthew Flinders. It says:

To the memory of Trim

The best and most illustrious of his race
The most affectionate of friends,
faithful of servants,
and best of creatures
He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia,
which he circumnavigated, and was ever the
delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers
Written by Matthew Flinders in memory of his cat

Trim led a truly remarkable life for a cat. Born in 1799 abord the HMS Reliance somewhere along the route to Australia from the Cape of Good Hope, Trim came to the attention of the then mid-shipman Matthew Flinders after falling overboard several times but paddling back to safety and climbing back on board. Seeing in him an indefatigable spirit of adventure and resilience, Trim quickly became a favored companion to all on board.

Flinders described Trim as, “One of the finest animals I ever saw … [his] robe was a clear jet black, the exception of his four feet, which seemed to have been dipped in snow, and his under-lip, which Trim rivaled them in whiteness. He also a white star on his breast, and it seemed as if nature designed him for the prince and model of his race.”

Trim was with Captain Flinders on many adventures and in 1801 circumnavigated the continent of Australia with Flinders on HMS Investigator. Trim not only helped Flinders to chart the continent of Australia, but he also sailed around the globe. When Flinders returned to England for his wedding Trim was with him, though he found life on land too unsettling for such a seafaring animal. He did, however, get to take a stagecoach journey to take in the sights of London.

Back onboard a ship, Trim was in his element. “‘Trim had frequent opportunities of repeating his observations and experiments in his favorite science, natural history, and exerting his undiminished activity and zeal for the public good.“ His favorite time was spent either mousing or trying to steal the food from the forks of diners. It is said that Trim was also a cat that took an interest in astral navigation. According to Flinders, “When an officer took lunar or other observations, he would place himself by the timekeeper, and consider the motion of the hands, and apparently the uses of the instrument, with much earnest attention.”

At one time, aboard the HMS Porpoise, Flinders, Trim, and crew were shipwrecked. Trim and Flinders survived, with Trim said to have helped to keep the stranded men’s’ spirits up while they waited for rescue.

Continuing to England on the HMS Cumberland, Flinders and Trim were detained in Mauritius as suspected spies after putting in for repairs on the French island. Unfortunately, two weeks after Flinder’s incarceration, Trim went missing, never to be seen again. During his imprisonment, Flinders wrote a 4,500-word tribute to Trim, noting “many a time have I beheld his little merriments with delight and his superior intelligence with surprise: Never will his like be seen again! Peace be to his shade and honour to his memory.”

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