If truth be told, many cats encouraged Christopher Columbus even before he launched his maritime career as "Admiral of the Ocean Seas." We know this because historical research has revealed his no-longer-secret enthusiasm for underwear made from the skins of mice. Cats discovered that when they dropped a dead mouse at Columbus’ door, he would set out a dish of half-and-half for them and, shortly thereafter, they would get a neatly skinned mouse carcass for their trouble. Cats loved the exchange, since mouse skins tended to catch in their teeth and be difficult to digest.
One cat in particular, however, had a significant role in Columbus’ career as an explorer. (It is debatable, of course, whether European contact with the New World has resulted in an unquestionable benefit to humankind, but we’ll leave that issue to more critical minds.)
Indigo, a female short hair whose fur was so black she almost seemed blue, sailed with Columbus on board the 'Santa Maria' in 1492 as a general ship-cat. Her official duties were as an above-decks mouser and as a conversation partner for the captain’s pet monkey, Ferdi. It seems that the monkey was frightened about going to sea again and the possibility of returning to his native Ivory Coast. He told Indigo that he was a fugitive from justice, having been convicted of impersonating a wild boar and stealing bananas from other monkeys in their panic. The desperate Ferdi confided that he was planning to befoul Columbus’ maps so he could not find his way to Africa, the original goal of this voyage.
Indigo did not want to betray her friend, but recognized the danger to the entire crew if the monkey carried out his plan. She therefore persuaded Columbus to sail westward instead of south to Africa by telling him that the New World was inhabited by mice with luxuriously soft skins. The rest, of course, is history.