20 Things You Didn’t Know about Military Cats

While humans utilizing animals for certain tasks is nothing extraordinary to realize, there are some time when history (and even some things happening in the here and now) can ultimately surprise you. The military does not have a long-standing tradition with using various types of animals for specific tasks, but the handful of breeds and species that do get used are trained with the best fighters in the world. While surely everyone is familiar with the United States military branches using dogs to help in war zones to identify potential mines, scout ahead for hostiles and more. What you might not have realized, is that the military has a secret they are keeping far closer to their chest: the uses that they have for cats both in the past and in the very near future. Since you are likely unfamiliar with cats in the military, here are 20 facts that you also likely didn’t know about them.

Some Cats Are Known To Have a `10 Year Old’s Brain Functionality 

Allegedly, recently a scientist happened across a pregnant Maine Coon cat along a road and decided to adopt it as his own. Soon after this adoption, the rather large cat had a small litter of kittens that were all welcomed to continue living with the scientist. Cameras were set up in the house to monitor the behavior of the mother cat and the kittens as they grew up, and something remarkable was caught in the footage. Within a short time, the kittens began to mimic the activities of the scientist’s daughter, even going so far as to play recognizable notes on the piano like the child did. It was believed that ultimately these cats could potentially have the intelligence within them of a 10-year old child. While there were still many hurdles that would come between educating a cat and the kind of education that a human child would receive, the military has been very invested and adamant to learn more about this ongoing research for their future development endeavors. 

Cats Were Common Aboard Naval Ships

During nearly every considerable war where naval ships have been deployed, cats have been used as ratters. Since it became such a common occurrence for vermin to get aboard ships and wreak havoc through the food stores and electrical equipment, these cats would serve a truly valuable service. Apart from ensuring that the naval soldiers were able to be fed what they needed to survive, cats would also be a great morale boost for those who had to be away from home for a great deal of time. In many cases, cats aboard the ships would serve as mascots to their human owners, and would proudly serve for years under their military leadership. 

Some Cats Have Service Medals

As crazy as it might sound, many cats were actually awarded medals for their service in different conflicts throughout history. While these were primarily divvied out to those who saw conflict and battles throughout the course of the first and second world wars, these few decorated cats have sufficiently proven that not all cats are lackadaisical to the needs of their owners or devoid an internal sense of duty. A fine example of this would be “Pooli” who in her time in the military was awarded a total of four battle stars and three service ribbons for her ratting services and morale boosting aboard the USS Fremont. Her years of service left her worse for the wear, as it had to so many veterans of WWII, and “Pooli” (short for Princess Papule) suffered hearing loss and was able to live out her days with a new owner Benjamin H. Kirk, far from the wartime efforts she used to know.

Many Military Cats Are Rescues From Land Conflicts

What you might not have realized is that a lot of the cats that were brought aboard naval ships or used in trenches for similar purposes were rescues from battles that had taken place. Often times these animals were displaced, especially if a lot of destruction was present after the conflict. In many cases, these former pets or strays, desperate for food or water, would instinctively seek out the people in the area that could give them the necessities required for survival: the victorious soldiers. Once these soldiers had gained the trust of the animal, it wasn’t hard for them to carry them aboard naval ships to help spearhead rat hunts, which would keep them alive and well nourished. 

Military Officers Had Nearly Incited Global Conflict Over A Cat  

In a rather funny story, a US Ambassador was taking a trip across the world sailing with colleagues. His rather demanding wife was in tow as well, and left her beloved cat in the able care of one of the Ambassadors employees. The cat was already sick when the couple left for their trip, but it was said that if any operations needed to be performed to save the cat, they would have to be verbally approved by the Ambassador’s wife. As you might have guessed, the cat did become in need of an operation shortly into the owner’s 2 week sailing expedition. Failing to find them where they were said to be, other embassies were called to locate the couple. Without divulging details, as this would be an embarrassing situation for the Ambassador, other government officials assuredly felt that this had something to do with impending news of attacks to come or brewing global conflict. Fortunately, before things got too out of hand, the employee of the Ambassador in charge of the cat was able to reach his boss (and relay back to the proper channels) that everything was just fine. 

Used To Serve A Specific Purpose In WWI

As was earlier stated, cats were often brought aboard naval vessels and kept along with units out in the field to keep vermin away from the soldiers and their supplies. An infestation could be devastating to a unit, especially when food stores were at critical stages awaiting further supplies, as was often the case both in WWI and in WWII. In many of the land conflicts, soldiers were required to be stationed in unsanitary areas of the world, where entire towns were seemingly overrun with mice and rats, which posed a great threat to the limited supplies that they were able to have. Cats, would work around the clock patrolling the trenches to stop these ravagers before they were able to infiltrate vital food stores and put soldiers’ lives in jeopardy.

The Cat Who Was An Honorary Unit Member  

In 2004, the conflict in Iraq was very much in full swing. Much like the aforementioned feline companions sent to the trenches to monitor for the presence of vermin, cats were also needed for this purpose for this war in the Middle East. “Pfc. Hammer” was one of the cats acquired by an Army Unit stationed in Iraq this year. He worked tirelessly to fight off and eliminate scores of mice that would attempt to make it to the food the soldiers needed to press on. For al of his hard efforts and success in preserving their food stores, the soldiers of the unit honored their furry friend with allowing him to become an honorary member of their unit. While the United States government never officially recognized this honor, they never repealed the action either. When the soldiers were set to come home, services like Alley Cat Allies and Military Mascots both worked to see that “Pfc. Hammer” could return to the country with his new soldier friends as well. He currently resides with a Staff Sargent of the unit, Rick Bousfield in Colorado.

Mascots Who Wouldn’t Be Denied

In many cases, their primary duties as ratters and vermin exterminators through major battle scenes across the world played second fiddle to their role as official mascots to the units from which they served or the ships that they were brought on board of. Now, there are some that took this mascot role far more seriously than others, and their respective units did as well, introducing high ranking visiting military officials to the cat that was stationed along with the troops. This was always a well-received gesture, as it was well understood that cats within these groups were making a huge impact on the successes of the war.

Cats Served As Entertainment And Companions To Military Men  

Apart from their roles both as mascots and exterminators throughout the course of history, one cannot discredit the feline’s role in companionship and morale for some long deployments away from home. It was widely understood that many soldiers and sailors had a difficult time adjusting to their new stations and conditions, leaving the comforts of home for the brutality and unpredictability of war. Cats were a calming presence for a lot of the stationed men, offering them a short break from time to time from their ever-present duties and allowing them to cut loose and have a little fun right along with the cats that were on duty with them. This often meant games with the cat like attempting to teach it tricks, but it also could be something far more simple, like just holding onto the cat for awhile and relaxing.

Cat Buried With Full Naval Honors  

One of the only cats that was actually recognized with an official title from the Royal Navy was “Able Seacat Simon”. In fact, Simon was so successful at what he was brought on board to do that the Royal Navy saw it fit to award him on two separate occasions for his service to the crown. He would start back in 1948, and being involved in grueling incident with forces from China, Simon was awarded alongside the other sailors from the HMS Amethyst. For his service through this conflict, “Able Seacat Simon” was given both a campaign ribbon for valiant service as well as a Dickin Medal for animal gallantry. Until this time, the only two types of animals to have received this award were dogs and pigeons (who carried vital messages through WWI).

Cats Ran Messages Across Enemy Lines  

But pigeons or dogs were not the only animals that were able to deliver messages across enemy lines to allow for a unit’s headquarters to be better informed about the conditions and stakes on the field of battle. One cat, named “Mourka” risked every one of his supposed nine lives carrying messages from Russian scouts back to headquarters. This was all taking place during the German siege of the area in the early 1940s, and the messages would contain vital information about the latest arrangements of German forces so that Russian officials could best defend the area. While it is never explicitly written anywhere, it is well understood that “Mourka” likely was awarded from the Russian government for his service to the country, providing the kind of information that would keep more Russian lives from being lost at this critical stage in WWII.

Able To Locate Food Stores For Starving Troops  

There were several accounts of soldiers being trapped under rubble and debris and being left behind when forces were required to press forward. With no rations or supplies to keep them alive, stray cats and former pet cats were able to help these soldiers to survive. In one such account, a cat was able to successfully lead a small group of people from food cache to food cache that Russian forces had left hidden in case of siege. This allowed these soldiers to keep living, and gave yet another vital task that cats were able to do in a military setting. 

Some Cats Were Bred For Military Service  

You might not know this, but a lot of cats that were used for the military throughout the years were indeed acquired after battles, but this is not the extent of how they came to be in the military. For the United States especially, cats are being bred even to this day to accompany naval ships that are leaving port for foreign waters. Much like battles and deployments of years gone by, these cats will wear a number of hats to do their job successfully. This falls into the concept of bred instincts, so US Military officials are breeding cats that have had successful tenures aboard naval ships already, with the firm belief that this will create more instinctively trained companions ready to serve. 

Non-Military Employed Awarded Cat “Faith”  

There have also been harrowing tales of non-military related cats that have done extraordinary things to give them recognition from military forces. A good example of this is “Faith”. She was a cat with a small kitten that was taken into a church in London just a day before German forces began to bomb the city. In the night preceding the attack, “Faith” would move her child upstairs to a more secured area of the church with no real rhyme or reason that those members of the church could decipher. Once the attack happened, it was understood the role that cats might have in predicting bombings or attacks with their natural instincts. “Faith” was awarded for her bravery in the Battle of London, and she and her kitten “Panda” both survived long after the incident.

Widespread Cat Usage During WWI and WWII

It was believed that just on British naval ships alone, that there were over 500,000 cats in service throughout the duration of WWI. This would account for every naval ship in the conflict. By the time that the second world war would come around, militaries all over the world saw the benefit in having a full-time feline companion on board. Nearly every vessel traveling the seas at that time would have a cat in tow, helping to not only keep the food stores safe from ravagers, but to also help to keep the crew calm and focused on their tasks at hand. 

Believed That Cats Could Make Good Spies  

This is a widely disputed issue, but one that many people have begun to see the sense about. With their unrivaled stealth and prowess, cats would make great spies for military forces. Of course, it would be difficult to get them to go exactly where you wanted them to all the time without some sort of guidance system. There are undoubtedly a lot of holes to the line of thinking, but if there is a way that it can be done to save human lives and employ some crafty cats to get the job done better, you had better believe that some branch of the military is going to figure out what has to happen. 

Life Saving Animals On The Frontlines  

Have you ever heard of a cat named “Pitouchi”? If you haven’t, you are in for quite a remarkable story. Adopted as a kitten by a Lt. Lekeux of the Belgian Army, the two were inseparable even through the explosions and gunfire of conflict. When Leleux had an opportunity to get valuable intel, he was not aware of the approaching German soldiers. His only course of action was to hunker down and hope that he would not be seen. The Germans, however, was sure there was someone in the hole where he was hiding. Pitcouchi jumped out of the hole when the Germans got close, spawning them to take a couple of shots (and thankfully miss) but ultimately laugh about their mistake. They could not believe they mistook a man for a cat and went back to the trenches they were building. The two escaped the incident unscathed, and the intel was able to be delivered. 

The Egyptians v. An Army With Cats  

As many people might know, Egyptians had always revered cats as godly creatures. Taking note of this, Persians looking to infiltrate the area were able to win a critical battle by carrying cats with them onto the battlefield. Knowing that the Egyptians would likely not attempt to do long ranged attacks that could harm their sacred felines, Persians swiftly and decisively won the battle. 

The Dark Jobs Of Military Cats

As we all know, in WWII, Germany was in a pretty dark place. This did not stop them from attempting to utilize cats for their own nefarious means, though. It was documented that on several occasions, cats were released outside of strongholds and fortresses with poisonous gas canisters attached to them. Their objective was to get inside the stronghold and then the gas would be released shortly thereafter. Unfortunately for German forces, many of the cats decided it was not worth the effort and brought the poisonous gas with them right back to camp. 

Early Warning Systems

As was briefly touched on with the story of the cat “Faith” from London, military officials are starting to see the potential in a cat’s ability to instinctively avoid calamity. Their natural instincts to protect themselves and their young could help to create an even better warning system for troops on the ground when there is a threat of impending bombings or mortar fire.


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