The Truth Behind Pirate Pets

A stern looking pirate with a striped shirt, wooden leg and a colorful parrot on his shoulder is quite likely the first image that comes to mind when you think of a pirate. However, did pirates really have parrots and other pets on board with them? Is this accurate or a fictitious symbol that was developed over the years in stories and tales? The truth is, not much is known about whether pirates kept pets or animal companions on board during their pirate ship escapades.  You can occasionally find comments about cats and dogs that were kept on board to help keep rat infestation issues under control. Other sources have wondered if parrots were kept on board not only as entertainment, but as a potential food source in case of a ration emergency. Sounds pretty unlikely, considering the small size of parrots. They were more likely companions to keep boredom at bay during long trips at sea, or even used as bargaining tools as needed. Read below to learn more about pirate pets at sea.

Pirate Pets: Parrots?

The most likely origins of parrots on pirate ships were centered on the trade of parrots as an exotic animal.  Parrots were first brought to ancient Greece way back in 385 BC, and the trade of live parrots soon became a regular business shortly thereafter. During the golden age of piracy, there was a well established business in the trade of exotic animals including parrots as royalty in Europe marveled in the parrot’s ability to speak and imitate human voices. The more exotic the animal, the more valuable the animal was considered and anything of value was important to pirates. In fact, some pirates were even known to idolize the royal lifestyle, and owning an exotic animal was a status symbol. In addition to being a popular trend among the well to do, a parrot’s naturally easy going social behavior  made it a good pet. Their ability to learn tricks, speak and interact well with humans was untypical for other birds which made them wildly popular and sought after.


Pirate Pets: Cats and Dogs?

In addition to colorful and entertaining parrots, it is theorized that cats and dogs may have possibly joined pirates on their adventures on the open seas. History indicates cats and dogs have been living with humans for thousands of years, so it makes good common sense they likely were involved in some levels with pirates.  Cats and dogs have always been beloved companions for humans, and they offer the added benefit of the ability to rid pirate ships of any unwanted mice that could threaten the men’s limited food supplies aboard their ship. A good mouser cat would be priceless in helping prevent loss of food rations that would be impossible to replace until the ship was able to dock back in port. Also, it is well known that that pirates were very superstitious and some seaman believed that a black cat on board was actually good luck. Legend said that as long as the cat was well fed and treated well on board, nothing would happen to the ship. On the contrary, if the cat was mistreated or thrown overboard, a terrible storm would soon develop signaling bad luck was on its way.


If you had been a pirate, would you have preferred a parrot, cat or dog to keep you company?