NEW ZEALAND – An Auckland sailor by the name of Paul Thompson can’t always hear everything around him while at sea. That’s where his cat comes in.
A six-month-old ginger Maine Coon, Strauss von Skattebol of Rebelpawz – or Skatty as he is called for – plays a very important role when the pair go sailing around New Zealand.
“I am totally deaf and Skatty is my ears,” Thompson explains.
“Without any training, he has twigged that I don’t hear and of his own accord he lets me know if a boat comes alongside, people are at my door and when my phone receives text messages.”
Originally from South Africa, the now 58-year-old computer programmer built his 32-foot double-ended junk La Chica all by himself and lives on board with Skatty in summer.
“Generally, if I’m below, he’ll be below and if I’m on deck he will usually come up as well,” Thompson adds. “At night he normally sleeps with me, curled up in the crook of my knee.”
Skatty is a polydactyl cat, which means he was born with extra toes on each paw. It’s a trait that was considered highly desirable to old-time sailors of times gone by, who believed these cats were good mousers with a better grip on the deck.
“For me as sailor, it was very satisfying to have a polydactyl cat,” Thompson claims
While cats and water don’t generally mix, this particular Maine Coon breed is often an exception. Skatty even takes the occasional swim and has only accidentally fallen overboard once.
“He was in the water for about two minutes and it was cold, it took about two hours of TLC and warmth for him to recover and he was somewhat subdued for the rest of the day.
“He was never in any danger as I was watching him all the time, but some things a cat has to learn the hard way.”
Previously, Thompson sailed around the world for fifteen years with a gray tabby by the name of Tommy, an epic adventure that saw the pair cruise from South Africa to Central and South America, the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Following Tommy’s passing to “the rainbow bridge”, Paul adopted Skatty when he was a mere 14-week-old kitten with the intention of training him as a ship’s cat.
“Having a cat onboard forces you to slow down and take life at your cat’s pace,” Thompson claims. “Skatty wants to know about everything and in satisfying his curiosity I learn to see things in a new light or from a different perspective.”
While the young cat has yet to leave the waters of New Zealand, a circumnavigation is currently being planned for next year with his first overseas stop likely to be Australia.
In the wintertime, the pair divide their time between the ship and their apartment in Albany – but even on land, Skatty has quite an important job to do.
The friendly feline is currently being trained as a therapy cat and Thompson hopes to start visiting rest homes and hospices soon to “share the love”.
Those who are interested in following their progress may LIKE Skatty on Facebook!