The incredible accomplishments of cats during war

by | Campaigns Interesting |

On Remembrance Day, we remember and honour those who have served, including the animals who have bravely given so much in times of conflict and peace.

While dogs and horses are often portrayed as wartime workers and companions, cats also played important roles in a variety of ways. Those with cats will likely not be surprised to learn it was a cat named “Simon” who won a Dickin Medal, the highest honor for Animal Military Gallantry in Britain!

Playful mascots

In the military, animal mascots were used to provide friendship and a happy distraction to Canadian soldiers. Various animals such as “Mike” the Saint Bernard, or “Batisse” the goat gave soldiers comfort and affection. Cats and other animal mascots were often given military code names, an act which often brought moments of laughter among soldiers as they shared silly names from a beloved childhood pet or memory.

Aboard naval ships

As unofficial allies, cats were able to go places that people, or larger animals, could not. Cats found a niche job in military barracks and aboard ships. Not only did they protect the limited rations of food, but they were also able to squeeze into tight spaces and prevent rodents from gnawing at important communications wiring and chewing through ropes and planks on ships. By controlling the rat and mouse populations, cats were also able to curtail the spread of disease by rodents.

On the ocean, some superstitious sailors even believed that cats would bring them protection at sea. With their excellent eyesight, cats were also rumoured to spot even the faintest of lights on the darkest and stormiest nights. Tiddles, a large black cat, traveled more than 30,000 miles with the British Royal Navy during World War II.

Comfort in uncertain times
cats in military, animals in war
Honorable Kodiak Kat, the 73rd Bombardment Wing mascot. Gift of Stephen Gerard, 2002.264.001. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/cats-in-the-military

During times of war, soldiers experienced grueling stress under the most perilous of conditions. While stationed abroad, they would often adopt cats or kittens that had been abandoned. The act of caring for these lost animals would give the soldiers comfort, and many found the presence of a furry mascot at the end of a hard day to provide some entertainment and stress relief. A Women’s Army Corps kitten named “Glamour Puss” was famously cat-napped, but the offer of a delicious steak dinner prompted his safe return.

A special sense

Cats were also thought to be able to detect bombs ahead of time, like dogs sniffing out explosives. Soldiers theorized it was due to cats being attuned to atmospheric pressure, or possibly just their “sixth sense.” During World War II, some families would rely on their cat’s senses to alert them ahead of a bomb being dropped and would retreat for safety to air-raid or bomb shelters.

The most famous of these fearless felines was aptly named “Bomber” and he could identify the difference between German aircrafts and planes in the British Air Force.

Always remembered

We are so grateful for the contributions of the Canadian soldiers, and their animal colleagues, during times of war. The numerous accomplishments of felines, and the roles they filled during war, are truly incredible and will never be forgotten.

This year, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has unveiled a new commemorative Animals in War collectible pin featuring a cat to honour the wartime contributions of animals. The Animals in War pin is intended to be worn as a complement to the poppy in remembrance of our veterans and the animals who bravely served by their side.

Funds from the sale of the pin help provide care for animals in need, and $1 from each pin sold is donated to Royal Canadian Legion branches across Ontario to support our veterans. To order your pin, visit ontariospca.ca/remember or call 1-888-668-7722 ext. 360.

Sources

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/cats-in-the-military

https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2021/february/cats-sea-services

https://globalnews.ca/news/1205305/2-cats-1-dog-suspected-of-spying-on-british-trenches-during-wwi/

https://www.rd.com/list/military-cats/

https://worldhistory.us/military-history/how-cats-were-used-in-warfare-feline-soldiers-and-saviors.php

https://time.com/5396568/simon-cat-war-medal/

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