This Veterans’ Day we honor all who served in the US military and thank them for their service. While it would not seem likely that cats have a connection with the military, cats have long since been at the sides of soldiers, whether as mousers on ships, unit mascots, or companions to boost morale - here are some honorable cats from history that stood side-by-side soldiers during difficult times of war. We salute your humans and you!
Her name is short for Princess Papule. She was born in the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii appropriately on the 4th of July 1944. She joined the sailors aboard the attack transport ship the USS Fremont, and became a sailor cat in her own right. Pooli saw many WWII battles in the Pacific including the Marianas, the Palau group, the Philippines, and Iwo Jima.
During battles, Princess Papule would race to the mailroom to nest in a mail sack until the battle was over. During the war, Pooli earned four battle stars and three service ribbons and then retired to live a long and happy life.
US Coast Guard mascot "Bilgewater" ensuring the quality of a new cadet uniform is up to cat comfort-level standards.
Hammer was born in 2004 on a U.S. military base in Iraq. While his littermates had all run away, he decided to join the soldiers stationed there and work as a mouser. Joining the Army unit, Hammer would chase away mice that would have contaminated or eaten the soldiers’ food. Because the situation in Iraq was extremely stressful, Hammer provided another very important role serving his soldiers as a source of comfort when needed.
Hammer became Private First Class Hammer after the soldiers made him an honorary member of their unit. When it was time for the unit to go back to the United States, they couldn’t leave Hammer behind. They raised enough money through rescue group Alley Cat Allies to bring Pfc. Hammer home. He received a hero’s welcome from unit members and spent the rest of his life living with Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield and his family. Hammer passed away in 2015.
"Pincher," the mascot of the HMS Vindex, sitting on the propeller of one of the seaplanes carried by ship.
Salty and Kitten
Salty, who was stationed in California during WWII at the San Diego Coast Guard Air Station, was a US Coast Guard mascot. When a pilot went down at sea, she stowed away with her kitten on the amphibian reconnaissance plane and successfully joined the rescue effort mission.
In 1948, Simon was picked up by a British seaman from a dock in Hong Kong and brought aboard he HMS Amethyst to be the ship’s mouser or ratter. He performed well-taking care of any rodents that might eat the ship’s food supply or chew through ropes and wood. He received 2 service awards, the Amethyst campaign ribbon, and is the only cat to have received the Dickin Medal. He died in 1949 from injuries sustained in during a battle and was buried with full naval honors.
"Pitouchi" (photo below) was born in the trenches, and would later go on to save his partner's life.
Pitouchi's mother was killed when he was a kitten. He was adopted and nursed back to health by a Lt. Lekeux of the Belgian Army.
As recounted in the book Soldiers in Fur and Feathers by Susan Bulanda, Pitouchi followed Lekeux wherever he went and reportedly went on to one day save Lekeux's life:
"As Lekeux reached a spot near the German lines, he saw that they were digging a new trench. He hid himself in a shell hole nearby to make a sketch of the German works. He was so absorbed in his sketch that he did not notice approaching German soldiers on patrol. When he finally realized his situation, it was too late to run.
He decided to lie very still, hoping that the Germans would not see him, but unfortunately he heard one soldier say, "He's in the hole," so he knew he had been seen.
When Pitouchi heard the German say that, he jumped out of the hole onto a piece of timber. The Germans were startled and fired two shots at Pitouchi. However, as frightened as he was, Pitouchi was not hit, and he jumped back into the hole with his beloved Lekeux.
The Germans laughed and joked that they had mistaken a cat for a man and left. Lekeux finished his drawings and returned to the Belgian lines with Pitouchi on his shoulders."
We thank you for your service with the deepest of gratitude.
HAVE A WONDERFUL MEMORIAL DAY AND STAY SAFE!