Veterans Day 2022

Cat on the HMAS Encounter sitting in a ship's gun barrel
The feline mascot of the Australian light cruiser HMAS Encounter during WW1

Since the beginning of armed conflict, soldiers have had to find small comforts where they could. Sometimes that comfort has come in the shape of cats and other furry pets.

Soldiers’ and sailors’ cats often had jobs — killing vermin, acting as mascots, and so forth — but as this piece by Nick Barnett put it,

Why does a soldier in the trenches make a pet of a cat? Sure, a playful cat can relieve boredom, and in a setting where hugs generally aren’t going to happen, it can provide a warm little body to cuddle.

Tucking a cat into the crook of your arm, feeding it, giving it life amid wreckage and danger, would have been a way of reminding themselves that there was reason for going home, and that they were still human.

That, to me, is the other great job – alongside the mousing – that cats have played in war zones. They’ve lifted men’s spirits and reminded them who they are.

On this Veteran’s Day 2022, we are 104 years past the end of the “war to end all wars” — that expression of a hope doomed to be left unfulfilled for the foreseeable future. Thus, cats still find themselves in war zones and in the care of soldiers, although nowadays the cats of war sometimes have Instagram accounts.

Of course, the cats are not the center of any war — just a sideshow, really. Give a thought to those who have found themselves in war, that uniquely inhumane yet all-too-human circumstance.

Also, Слава Україні!

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