Mews: The amazing and brave cats of World War 1

Hi everyone,

We found this very interesting post for you on the caternet! Not enough people know that there were indeed MANY brave kats at the forefront of this! To honour them please find photos and stories of them below.

And just to clarify – we do not agree with some of the things our ancestors put these cats through but there are loads of stories that should not be forgotten by time.

During the war apparently cats were a common sight on ships and in trenches to hunt rats and mice! Beyond this duty they became friends and companions to sailors and soldiers alike

It is estimated that approximately 500,000 cats were dispatched to the trenches, where they killed rats and mice; unfortunately some were also used as gas detectors. On the sea cats had the run of the ship – a tradition dating back thousands of years. As the U.S. Naval Institute explains:

It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates. In addition to offering sailors much needed companionship on long voyages, cats provided protection by ridding ships of vermin. Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into the provisions, chew through ropes and spread disease. The more superstitious sailors believed that cats protected them by bringing good luck. It was also common for crews to adopt cats from the foreign lands they visited to serve as souvenirs as well as reminders of their pets at home.

Ship’s cat aboard the HMAS Encounter. [Wikipedia]

cats of world war 1 - 1

A gunner with the regimental cat in a trench. Cambrin, France, February 6th, 1918. [IWM]

cats of world war 1 - 2

“Togo”, the cat mascot of the battleship HMS Dreadnought. [IWM]

cats of world war 1 - 3

Feline mascot named “Spark Plug.” [Library of Congress]

cats of world war 1 - 4

“Pincher,” the mascot of the HMS Vindex, sitting on the propeller of one of the sea planes carried by the ship. [Wikipedia]

cats of world war 1 - 5

Ship’s cat strutting along the barrel of a 15-inch gun on the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Gallipoli Peninsula, 1915. [Bibliotheque nationale de France]

cats of world war 1 - 6

A Canadian soldier with “Tabby,” his unit’s mascot, on Salisbury Plain. September 27th, 1914. [IWM]

cats of world war 1 - 7

Two men of the 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (15th Division) with their pet cat. “Martinpuich,” August 25th, 1916. [IWM]

cats of world war 1 - 8

Two cats pose in the breech of a 4-inch caliber gun aboard an unidentified U.S. ship. [U.S. Naval Institute]

cats of world war 1 - 9

Studio portrait of a soldier holding a kitten. Melbourne, 1915. [Australian War Memorial]

cats of world war 1 - 10

Officers of the U.S. 2nd Army Corps with a cat they discovered in the ruins of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. [Pictorial Record of the 27th Division]

cats of world war 1 - 11

A sailor on board the Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Swan shaking the paw of “Ching,” the ship’s mascot. [Australian War Memorial]

cats of world war 1 - 12

Sailor on board the HMAS Melbourne holding two ship’s cats. 1917. [Australian War Memorial]

cats of world war 1 - 13

Ensconced in an opening in a sandbagged dugout, a cat, probably a mascot, looks up expectantly at the approach of an unidentified soldier. Gallipoli Peninsula, 1915. [Australian War Memorial]

cats of world war 1 - 14

British soldier playing with mascot. [Illustrated War News, Vol. 7, London, 1918]

cats of world war 1 - 15

Portrait of Company O’Connor Men and cat. August 12th, 1915. [Australian War Memorial]

cats of world war 1 - 16

And, lastly, “Pitouchi” (photo below) was born in the trenches. His mother was killed when he was a kitten, and he was adopted and nursed to health by Lt. Lekeux of the Belgian army. According to the book, Soldiers in Fur and Feathers, by Susan Bulanda, the cat followed the officer wherever he went, and one day saved his 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.

cats of world war 1 - 17

The original post was on io9 here.

Hope you enjoyed this.

Thanks and don’t forget you can now follow us on Bloglovin by clicking here.

KATZENWORLDLOGOnowords

Sign-up to our FREE Katzenworld Newslettter
Get the latest content directly to your inbox.
We respect your privacy and will never pass your data to third parties.

We regularly write about all things relating to cats on our Blog Katzenworld!

My partner and I are owned by three cheeky cats that get up to all kind of mischief that of course you’ll also be able to find out more about on our Blog

If you are interested in joining us by becoming a regular contributor / guest author do drop me a message.

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Mews: The amazing and brave cats of World War 1

    1. Thank you Wendy 🙂 – While some of the things they had to do certainly falls into the WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO OUR CATS category it is something from history that should not be forgotten!

  1. A lovely post to honour those cats that served like so many other animals with soldiers or for soldiers..indeed it makes my heart sad that they were in these situations..and one hopes the times have changed somewhat..all service animals are the most special..as they ask not to go to war on behalf of man..but they do…thankyou amazing images. Hugs Fozziemum

    1. I so agree with your comments! Let’s hope the world will never return to times as bad as those in the past and that things keep improving for pets and service animals alike! 🙂

  2. Marc i feel better at looking at the whole story now. The photos sure make you understand what an important job they had in war time. How great comfort they must of been for those Soliders

    1. Indeed, that’s why we had to post about this! Kitties can be just as brave as dogs :). I still think tho that some of the things our furry friends had to do in the past they should have never had to do. But history is there to be learned from!

  3. Oh my gosh, just found this post!! Love it. I’m a sucker for vintage photographs and the stories behind them. My dad (who is a retired veterinarian) is a World War buff and I should pass this post on; it’s so true we hear so much about dogs at war but kitties?!! This is so great. That first photograph is so awesome I want it on my wall.

Why not meow a comment to fellow readers?

Follow us on Wordpress

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox:

%d bloggers like this: