Cats? In the Military?!

Despite their small, fluffy nature and their propensity to do as they please, even cats had a place in the military.

Yes! Although, not in any official capacities like horses, dogs, or mules, cats did often have a place on ships, in barracks, and as companions for those serving in the military. Unofficially, cats were often welcomed aboard ships to help with rodent control and similarly in barracks and military field offices. A good ratter could help preserve often precious food stores, help in preventing the spread of diseases, and keep rats or mice from chewing through ropes and wiring. However, many of us will be most familiar with cats that served as mascots and companions.


Providing stress relief and a bit of fun in tense situations in the main job of any mascot, like this aircraft carrier cat.

Waiting instructions in the briefing room, pilots on a US Navy aircraft carrier relax by playing with the ship’s mascot. Shortly after this picture was taken, they were flying far above the Atlantic on a battle-mission. Probably the USS Ranger (CV-61), July 1944. Image Courtesy US Naval Institute. 


Often pets and mascots were adopted along the way by soldiers and sailors who found an abandoned cat or kitten.

After the smoke of battle had cleared on Betio Island, Tarawa, this tiny kitten crept out from beneath a wrecked Japanese tank, to receive a drink from a US Marine. Tarawa, November 1943. Image Courtesy US Naval Institute.


Finally, cats have a way of breaking up the monotony of any long day. Their services though not always considered heroic were certainly great contributions to those around them who benefitted from their companionship, mouser skills, and entertainment.

Honorable Kodiak Kat, the 73rd Bombardment Wing mascot. Gift of Stephen Gerard, 2002.264.001.



Dog Day Afternoon

In honor of National Dog Day, think about what it would be like to volunteer your dog for military service.


Toni M. Kiser

Toni is a graduate of the George Washington University’s Masters in Museum Studies Program and the author of Loyal Forces: American Animals in WWII and the co-editor of Museum Registration Methods, 6th Edition.

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