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Photo by: Kristina Traks

Photo by: Kristina Traks

Photo by: Kristina Traks

Watch out, rats and mice! On Katharina, Tont maintains order!

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By Kristina Traks  •  30.05.2016

Tont, a cat as black as coal, is a fully fledged crew member of the historic steamship Katharina, which makes cruises on Tallinn bay. Tont’s duty is to keep rats and mice from gaining ground on the ship.

As Herkki Haldre, the official spokesman for Tont and captain of Katharina, says, the duty of a cat is ‘deratisation’ – or rat control in plain English – and it is a great specialist in this area. “In order to recruit a cat, we had stiff competition and chose Tont from among the hundreds of hard-working professionals,” says Herkki. “Although we actually don’t have rats on board, ships are ordered to practice ‘deratisation’. This can be done in two ways – either to have a certified company do it or employ a cat as a member of the crew.”

Tont has settled itself into the captain’s cabin. “It even considers itself an admiral and it has deratisation so well under control that it can devote its time mainly to sleeping, “ says Herkki. “Tont is with us on all our voyages and it really enjoys being at sea. I haven’t noticed the rolling of the ship affecting it adversely.”

The tradition of keeping cats on the ships is actually very old. In the British Navy there was even an order during World War II that all warships had to have cats on board. This was to help the soldiers who were away from home, as they could stroke kittens and the purr motors could help to relieve their stress. But Tont doesn’t like strangers who want to stroke it. “It wants to focus on its main job and that is why we often don’t let it walk amongst the passengers,” explains Herkki. “We have a lot of passengers and everybody would like to dote on it, but we cannot afford our professional to become stressed as a result.”