This Cat O Nine tails is crafted from braided black leather.
The Cat O Nine Tails was a dreaded sight among Naval crewmen during the Age of Sail, though it clearly had a much older origin. The threat of the scathing punishment of the Cat O Nine kept discipline among the often unsavory characters that manned fighting ships in the Age of Sail, many of whom were unlucky sailors or even prisoners pressed into service against their will.
A Cat O Nine could be made of rope or leather, though leather was typically the more painful of the two. A man marked for punishment would often be made an example of for the crew to witness; the dour spectacle included drum rolls and unnecessary pauses like the untangling of the whip cords to draw out the punishment. The intent to burn the fear of the Cat O Nine and its biting tails into the minds of the crewmen was clear.
Although sailors and pressed crewmen faced conditions that could become appalling (not to mention the sheer danger of fighting in floating wooden fortress who duelled with iron cannon) it is a grim testament to the pain and fear that the Cat ONine doled out the backs of the unfortunates that order on these ships could be maintained.
A common punishment during the Napoleonic Wars was for a man in irons to be forced to make the very Cat O Nine that would be used to censure him, with extra lashes awarded should he make a substandard Cat. Though anything from a dozen to several dozen lashes was a somewhat standard punishment, a grave offense such as mutiny and sedition could warrant a flogging round the fleet whereby the offender(s) would be punished on the deck of every naval ship in port or in a fleet, accumulating as many as several hundreds of lashes at the completion of this grim tour. The punishment could be spread over a length of time, months or years, though men who were condemned to the full gamut all at once could be killed by the punishment, which, in some cases was likely the intended outcome.
The lashings from the cat typically lacerated the back of the poor man, and the rudimentary and unpleasant antiseptic applied was briny seawater. Hence the origin of the term to rub salt into his wounds.
Though the Cat O Nine was a typical naval punishment, the Armies could have their own versions. A notoriously brutal variant of the Cat O Nine had its whip-ends fitted with lead weights – this type was used against the greatly misfortunate backs of the exiled convicts bound for and within the penal colonies of Australia at the far-flung extremity of the British Empire.