You may wonder what cats have to do with Armistice Day, known today as Veteran's Day. While dogs have always had important roles in the military, cats deserve a bit more press than they get for their parts.
Veterans Day is set aside once a year to thank and honor living veterans who serve or previously served in one of the branches of the U.S. military. Some of those veterans are of the feline persuasion. There are records as far back as 9,500 years ago of cats working aboard ships and in barracks and field offices, helping with rodent control.
The most recent record of a feline serving his country was Private First Class Hammer. He was adopted as a kitten by a U.S. Army unit in Iraq in 2004. He performed well, providing companionship to the troops. He also proved to be an adept mouser, keeping the unit's food supplies and sleeping quarters safe.
I previously featured another famous feline veteran on this site's blog about Memorial Day. Her name was "Pooli," short for "Princess Papule." She was born on July 4, 1944, in the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor. Pooli saw action, spending time aboard the USS Fremont, an attack transport ship in active battle in the Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Philippines, and Iwo Jima. During her service, Pooli earned three service ribbons and four battle stars. When she crossed the equator with her humans, she was dubbed a shell back and initiated a traditional ceremony that goes back to the Vikings. Newspaper reports indicate Pooli retired in luxury and lived at least 15 years after the war ended in 1945.
At least one cat in history won an award for bravery. His name was Simon, a ship's cat who served on the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Amethyst. In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, Simon received the PDSA's Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale, and killing off a rat infestation during his service.
Cats often served as mascots for various field units. They've also served as furry spies. Who would wonder why a cat was roaming around a room? The cat, of course, was wearing a bug. Animal trainers were often employed to train the animals for other "unrevealed intelligence activities." Animal intelligence continues in the military, with cats, dolphins, and even chickens getting in on the act.
This year, while thinking of all the human military veterans you know, think of the cats who also served. And while you're at it, give Pooli a "Bravo Zulu," which means "good job" in Navy-speak.
Quote to remember: "Indeed, there is nothing on this earth more peaceful than a sleeping, purring cat." - Unknown
National Veterans Memorial Museum
"Celebrating Cats in the Military"
"Cats of War"
"The CIAâ€™s Most Highly-Trained Spies Werenâ€™t Even Human"