It’s difficult for anyone who hasn’t experienced war first hand to imagine what it was like for the brave souls who fought to defend others and their countries.
No one should have to endure such hardship.
However, it’s comforting to know that in World War I and World War II, heroes from the United States and allied nations had feline companions helping them in the fields.
In fact, historical records show that military leaders ordered more than 500,000 cats to be brought into the trenches during World War I alone. Many cats were born in the trenches and the soldiers gladly raised these brave kittens into war cats.
On November 11th, when we’re all tipping our hats and showing our appreciation for our nation’s heroes, let’s give an extra salute to the fierce felines who were there to offer support.
Here’s how cats left an indelible paw print on the lives of WWI and WWII heroes.
It’s no secret that cats are adept hunters – which is why the military originally requested feline aid.
Cats were first brought into the trenches and aboard ships to protect the soldiers’ food supplies. With mice, rats, and other vermin vying for the opportunity to nibble away at the troops’ food rations – and leaving their disease-carrying droppings behind – cats were the perfect companion on Naval vessels and in soldier camps.
The cats kept the vermin populations at bay and, by extension, kept the soldiers nourished and healthy. Thankfully, the cat hero battalions were happy to do the job in exchange for an endless supply of squeaky snacks.
Cats became so commonplace in the trenches that many battleships and aerial fleets adopted specific cats as their mascots.
Thanks to museums around the world, we have strong documentation of many feline mascots who inspired the troops in WWI and WWII.
There was, to name just a few:
Ching, an Aussie kitty who was known to shake hands (ahem... paws) with the sailors aboard the Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Swan
- Tabby, a feisty mascot to a unit of Canadian soldiers
Togo, the stoic and kingly mascot of the battleship HMS Dreadnought
- Spark Plug, the spunky and fearless mascot of biplane pilots in WWI
Blackie, a savvy servant of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Prince of Wales
These cat heroes and others were symbols of strength and resilience. They were tiny, seemingly delicate creatures that walked among men 10 times their size in perilous situations.
The feline mascots of WWI and WWII helped the soldiers hold on to the values they prized most of all and gave the troops a common friend to unite them all when many of the young fighting men started out as complete strangers.
Simply put, the cats who lived during WWI and WWII were heroes. Not only were they courageous enough to stick around in such dire situations, but also they provided a resource to the soldiers that was both precious and rare in those times: emotional support.
With their cat companions by their sides, to cuddle during the cold nights and to purr gently when all the men wanted was a moment of peace, the soldiers were given the gift of emotional support from loyal feline friends.
Moreover, the cats provided entertainment for the men. Many WWI and WWII cats were trained to perform tricks, while others caused riots of laughter simply by being their natural selves. Cats were often found peering out of gun barrels or walking along sandbag walls with pure feline attitude that delighted the soldiers.
From World War I to today, cat heroes have been found around every corner. So today we’d like to give thanks to the brave men and women who serve our country and the cat heroes who help them through the toughest of days.
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