Short Story #341: A Cargo of Cat by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Cargo of Cat

Author: Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

The narrator explains that the ship, Mary Jane left Malta with a boat-load of cats, which caused much havoc.  However, in caring for the cats, a shipmate accidentally drowns significant portion of them below deck.  The narrator explains that cats typical expand when soaked in water and that this caused the ship's middle to bulge close to the point of breaking.  The captain just says to treat it with liniment but the narrator insists the issue is more urgent than that.  He is ignored and the hatch blows off as the waterlogged cats burst out. They get the priest to say a prayer for all the dead cats and then allow the to roam on deck.  The narrator notes that their singing was nonstop and made quite the noise since they had many different octaves.  However, the bigger issue is that there is no food as it was all below deck and is no longer accessible.  Just as they are drawing lots on who would need to be eaten first, all of the cats stop singing and jump ship at once.  The cats had seen that they had made it close to the shore of Italy and wanted nothing to do with it.  


As the last story in the collection, I can see in some ways why it was chosen--it captures both the humor and morbidity of Bierce, but I think the last collection of tales with Abersouth would have been a higher note to finish the collection on.

Short Story #341 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 11/01/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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