Jackie sleeping in her window hammock. Credit Celeste Savoretti
CultureLife and livingLocalVictoria Park

Meet the inexplicably cute canal cats patrolling Bow’s waterways

Among the human inhabitants who call our canals home are their furry companions, the canal boat cats, who add an extra touch of charm and kinship to this tranquil maritime lifestyle.

If you potter down the waterways of Bow, you will find a special pocket of London, a floating community that thrives aboard boats. A fleet of whimsical vessels glide through London like paintings brought to life. Each one is a floating canvas of vibrant hues, and suntrapped herb gardens, and many feature a proud kitty prowling around on deck.

Observant visitors strolling along the canals of Bow will have delighted in spotting a feline lounging on the towpath next to Mile End Park or peering out from a porthole in Poplar. This picturesque scene has famed our canals for many decades.

From bow to stern, these feline security staff patrol Bow’s floating homes with a sense of ownership. The watchful kitties keep a careful eye on passing ducks and coots and leisurely bask in the sunlight streaming through the windows of their boats.

If cats could read, learning about the rich history of our East End canal network would make their whiskers twitch. Dating back to the 18th century, the Limehouse Cut connected the Thames to the Lea, facilitating early trade and growth for London. 

Caution cats crossing sign on Regents Canal, Victoria Park, East London
Caution Cats Crossing, Victoria Park, East London. Credit Albie Matthews

The Victorian era then saw the Regents Canal and the Hertford Union Canal join the network, bustling with shipbuilding and manufacturing. The watery arteries of East London have long whispered tales of community, industry, and revival, with the canals remaining vital hubs for our community. 

In recent years, revitalisation efforts have transformed them into vibrant spaces for living, leisure, and culture, showcasing the resilience of East London’s spirit. 

Today’s furry canalside residents can’t help but add a touch of whimsy and warmth to the picturesque scenes of canal life, reminding us that home is not just a place but a feeling of safety and belonging—whether on land or water.

Come with us to meet the canal cats of East London and delight in their quirky characteristics and delightful stories of waterside living. 

Meet Lottie

Lottie the tortoiseshell cat sat on the windowsill inside her boat, East London
Lottie sat proudly in her floating home. Credit Lisa

Lottie is a three-and-a-half-year-old tortoiseshell cat who moved onto her boat about four months ago. Her favourite indulgence? Licky treats!

Before her canal-side residency, Lottie called a cosy studio flat in North London home. There, she would wander the corridors and the garden, charming the neighbours and running away from other cats.

While moving onto the canal has been a major transition, Lottie has found her little moments of joy. Located strategically in the window, she eagerly poses for photos and attention and watches life unfold along the towpath. Moorhens, dogs, pigeons, and the occasional squirrel are among her favourite subjects of observation.

Despite being an indoor cat, Lottie enjoys lounging in her covered “catio” on the bow, soaking in the sights and sounds of the canals. Regents Row in Haggerston is one of her favourite spots in the East End.

Lottie the tortoiseshell cat looking out of her boat window, East London
Lottie keeping an eye on the towpath traffic. Credit Lisa

But what truly sets Lottie apart are her endearing quirks. From her penchant for ‘making biscuits’ to her adorable habit of sleeping with her tongue out, she never fails to invoke a smile. 

Don’t be fooled by her demure demeanour, though; she’s a mischievous little girl with plenty of ‘tortitude’ who is known to sneak into the kitchen cupboard in search of treats. She often drags a bag under the bed and munches her way through it.

When she’s not lounging in her favourite spots—the catio, her basket on the sofa, or her perch by the window, she keeps her human company while she works and has, on occasion, contributed to an email.

Lottie the tortoiseshell cat sticking her tongue out on her boat, East London
Lottie sticking her tongue out. Credit Lisa

Lottie’s human is called Lisa. Lisa moved onto her boat about four months ago and loves floating around on the canals in Bow, 

‘I love East London. The street art, markets, and rich cultural heritage from its immigration histories make it a really exciting place to be. Despite gentrification efforts, East London maintains a vibrancy, diversity, and dynamism that makes it feel like there is space for everyone. Quite simply put, it feels like home.’

Meet Roarschach

Roarschach the black and white cat laying in bed on the boat, East London
Roarschach lying in bed. Credit Aisha Mirza

To friends, family, and foes, he is known as Kitty or Kitkat. Although he is nine years old and grumpy, he is as big and cuddly as ever. 

His weighty stature has been described as ‘big-boned’. When he jumps from furniture to floor, his thump is so powerful it’s known near and far as the kitty bomb. 

As captain aboard the vessel Pink Moon, he is a man of routine and discipline. He begins every morning by sitting on top of his humans and purring into their sleeping ears. Despite his relatively composed demeanour, ear scratches make him drool. 

He is a fierce explorer at heart, travelling all the way to the edges of the towpath, discovering new worlds at every new mooring spot (but only under cover of darkness because, like the best of us, he is a big scaredy cat) 

Roarschach laying in bed next to a sock on the boat, East London
Roarschach and the sock. Credit Aisha Mirza

His favourite game is chasing shadows and his tail—the trickiest prey, only caught by a true hunter. One day, he’ll get there. In the meantime, he trains his hunting skills by catching toes at the end of the bed. 

He spends his days dreaming of butter. If available, he is sure to lick it. Buttered toast is his Achilles heel, but day to day, he favours a Felix meaty selection.

Bring treats if you see him out on the towpath and want this portly fellow on your side.

Meet Jackie

Jackie the black and white cat in her window hammock, East London
Jackie in her window hammock. Credit Sol Savoretti

Jackie, named after British cellist Jacqueline Du Prè, is a small tuxedo cat born in Rosario, Argentina, the birth city of Che Guevara and Lionel Messi. 

She’s a very well-travelled cat with an international passport who has been on all sorts of land vehicles, aeroplanes and even a ferry before buying her own boat!

Jackie is a senior with plenty of energy. She often behaves like a playful kitten, and she enjoys napping a lot. 

She likes wet cat food but also is a sucker for avocados, tomatoes, olive oil, chickpea water and plant-based cream cheese. 

Jackie the black ad white cat lookig out of the window at the canal, East London
Jackie and her window reflection. Credit Sol Savoretti

Her favourite part about living on the boat is her window hammock, from where she gets the best views of the canal and its feathered inhabitants. 

On the outside, she enjoys climbing trees and the neighbouring boats and occasionally goes for an accidental dip in the water. Then, she stretches out and dries by the fire, which she absolutely adores and for which she gets some extra treats. 

Her favourite spots in East London are those with lots of trees nearby; Stonebridge, Cheshunt, and especially the Hackney Marshes. This way, she can easily explore the area with a backup plan if a dog—not on a leash—comes to get her.

Even though she was already a senior when she moved into the boat and a very athletic one who needed to run and jump a lot, she adapted very well to life on the water— we suspect that the window hammock had a lot to do with it.

Jackie the cat sleeping in her window hammock, East London
Jackie sleeping in her window hammock. Credit Celeste Savoretti

Meet Alfie

Alfie the white cat lounging in the sun on his boat, East London
Alfie lounging in the sun on his boat. Credit Katie Vass

Alfie, 18 years old, mainly loves being indoors and looking out of his boat windows; he gets quite upset when condensation blocks his view of the outside world. 

He has lived on the boat for nearly a year and was born in Clacton to a very young mum and a stray dad. He is the only white cat among his siblings, the rest being ginger or black. 

He is a loving boy at heart who can only be touched on the head, as his back is a big no-no. Don’t let his cuteness and age fool you; he has a quick right hook. To strangers, he can be very mean and intimidating; this goes for cats,  dogs, and humans. 

He will stand his ground and is very territorial over his boat. 

Alfie will be 19 this October but still bounces around the same way he did when he was a kitten. He also goes for the occasional unintentional swim at least once a month. He will then feel sorry for himself for days until he plucks up the courage to venture outside again. 

Alfie the white cat putting his paw on the window, East London
Alfie putting his paw up to the window. Credit Katie Vass

Alfie loves sticks. His favourite toy is a stick with feathers on the end, but he prefers the stick part. His favourite toy has been replaced twice because he eats it. 

He has a strong dislike for bags, so much so that the bin has to be emptied when he is either asleep or has gone out. This is to save the furniture from being scratched by his running so fast. 

Alfie’s human is Katie Vass,

‘Alfie has been my best friend since I was very young, and I have taken him with me everywhere I go. He was a family cat, but he always stayed close to me. When I moved onto the water, he followed along for the journey.’

Meet Millie

Millie the black cat sat in her hammock, East London
Millie sat in her hammock. Credit Taz McNaughtan

Millie looks grumpy yet sweet, no matter what’s going on. She’s around seven years old, but her humans aren’t quite sure, as she was adopted from a former owner who lived in a high-rise. 

She has lived in her floating home for about a year now and absolutely loves it. Millie has always been an indoor cat, and from land to water, she’s always been a homebody.

Millie nibbles at her paws when you brush her back, which is extremely cute. However, her preferences change from her paws when it comes to dinner time. She absolutely adores fish, but she is particular and only likes it shredded, never in chunks, a sassy lady.

She loves peeking out of the boat windows and watching the swans, geese and coots, knowing they can’t get to her, although she hisses if they come too close to the window. 

Millie the boat cat looking out of her window, East London
Millie keeping watch. Credit Taz McNaughtan

Millie hates it when the engine is on and really hates the cyclists travelling along the towpath at dangerous speeds…don’t we all?

She has a couple of favourite spots to hang out on her boat, one being her window hammock and the top bunk bed, not to mention the pillow next to her human’s head if it’s past 8 a.m. and she’s not been fed.

Millie very occasionally decides to escape out of the stern door. Most of the time, she’s not interested in the outside world beyond sniffing the air, and then she waddles down the gunnel, getting increasingly worried as she realises she has no plan for what’s next. 

As Millie can’t swim and has never encountered another cat, fox, dog, or speeding cyclist before, her humans have to carefully follow her when she goes for an explore, careful not to tip the boat so much that she’ll topple in.

Millie the black cat looking out of the boat window at the canal, East London
Millie watching the ducks. Credit Taz McNaughtan

Meet Jinx

Jinx the cat in bed on her boat, East London
Jinx in bed with her human. Credit Poppy

Jinx is 3/4 ragdoll and 1/4 Russian blue. She is ten months old and is a very ditzy and extremely cuddly little girl. 

She lives in her beautiful floating home with her mother, Emerald, and her auntie, Poppy.  

Jinx’s favourite food is tuna, especially if you accidentally give her a bowl full with a slosh of brine. 

She is a ball of energy and absolutely loves jumping all over the place. Her energetic streak goes beyond the boat’s interior as she delights in springing between other boats along the towpath. 

Jinx the cat asleep on her boat, East London.
Jinx asleep on her boat. Credit Poppy

Much to her dismay, during these outdoor excursions, she has fallen in the canal precisely eight times. Poor Jinx.

In other news, Jinx recently acquired a boyfriend, and we believe she will be expecting kittens in mid-May, which is very exciting. There will be more canal kittens to come!

Jinx the cat outside her boat, East London
Jinx peeking in from outside her boat. Credit Poppy

Meet Winnie

Winie the canal cat laying in a carboard box on her boat, East London
Winnie lounging in her cardboard box. Credit Emilie and Matt

Winifred, or Winnie to those who are close to her, is six months old and enjoys avocado and Greek yoghurt. Her complete favourite treat is tiramisu, but she’s only allowed it when she is very lucky.

Winnie loves living on the canals in Bow and has been floating around for about ten months. Her favourite activity is watching people and coots from the back deck of the boat. When she isn’t watching the world go by from the comfort of the boat, she is out and about exploring the neighbouring barges. 

She has some really powerful kung-fu kitten skills, and when she’s not slapping people or pushing things off surfaces, she delights in curling up on a warm lap in front of the fire, pottering along the gunnels of the boat and sitting in the sink.

One thing that Winnie hates is the sound of the hoover and oranges!

Winnie the cat laying in bed on her canal boat, East London
Winnie laying in bed. Credit Emilie and Matt

If you liked this why not read The lock-keeper’s cottage in Mile End preserves the canal’s history 

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