I thought I would revisit the subject of cat and animal bravery having seen a picture of an American ship’s cat, Pooli, from the LA Times archive. I refer to him at the base of the post.
Cat bravery is not something we normally think that much about. It is basically a human concept. Cats don’t deal in bravery although they are brave. Cats are naturally courageous. Under certain circumstances individual cats are fearless. They just do what they have to do.
The awards for human bravery are usually granted for bravery in battle during a war. And philosophically speaking all wars are a failure. That sort of puts bravery into context although I have the utmost admiration for the individual people who have awards of bravery. In Britain the VC (Victoria Cross) is the highest award. If you have that medal you need do no more in life.
So what about cat bravery? Realistically we have to recognise that this is a human concept applied to cats. There is a problem there but….although cats don’t participate in the idea of bravery they are brave by our standards and when it occurs during a war and a cat is doing something for the well-being of people in the armed forces, he or she deserves recognition.
However, I have the question whether it is right to bring companion animals into follies of our own making. Wars are ghastly. Companion and domestic animals don’t make war. Why should they be in our wars? Is it fair to use them?
Another slightly sad thing is that only one cat has been awarded the Dickin Medal and none have been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal, the British equivalent of the George Cross. The Dickin Medal, awarded by the PDSA, is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross. It is awarded for..
‘Conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict’
The sole cat to be awarded the Dickin Medal is the well known Simon, a ship’s cat. He served on the HMS Amethyst a smallish warship about of the size of a frigate. He was on the ship at the time of the Yangtze incident in April 29th 1949. The ship was shelled heavily and many crew members were killed. Simon was injured and had four bits of shrapnel removed. He died after the incident. As all cats do, he endured everything thrown at him with dignity.
Ruth (Monty’s Mom) wrote and sang a song for him. You can see the words to the song and hear Ruth and her companion sing the song by clicking on this link.
The PDSA have a book on animal VCs:
Why is Simon the only cat to have won the Dickin Medal? It has to about opportunity. And this goes back to the beginnings of domestication of the dogs and cats. Dogs were domesticated thousands of years before cats as they were considered more useful. I think cat lovers can understand that. This is about usefulness at a physical level that can be employed in conflict. The size and strength of dogs wins here. And of course they are more easily trained. Cats are as useful as dogs in a different way. It is more passive and to do with emotional support and companionship. They are also great mousers.
Another aspect of the cat in war that comes to mind but it is not about bravery but about the countless number of cats killed in houses and on streets in conflicts around the world. How many cats have been abandoned and killed in Syria or Afghanistan for example? Unsurprisingly, there is not one word on that subject. There is now.
The Dickin Medal is for British animals as far as I am aware. What of animals of other nations? There must be many examples of animal bravery. I can’t find an equivalent award for American animals. Perhaps someone can help.
There must have been lots of ship’s cats. Pooli was one such cat, serving on USS Fremont during the second world war. He had several medals for active service in war zones such as Iwo Jima.
When battle stations sounded on board he went to his spot in the mail room. He’d curl up down there and wait for the all noise and commotion to subside. Sensible.
Cats Adapt to War
Recent wars indicate that cats and dogs are still providing comfort to service personnel. In the recent Irag war, a number of American military personnel found comfort in cats and dogs. I guess dogs are going to be more popular with the military but cats still feature in their lives. Elisa wrote a post about this some time ago.