Brave Cat

by George
(Cumberland, MD USA)

Charlie about to surprise Cassie.

Bravery does not mean having no fears. A man with no fears does foolish things and endangers others around him. Bravery is when you conquer your fears and do what needs to be done in the face of real danger or threat of real harm.

I am fortunate to have two cats, Charlie and Cassie, who are very different from each other. This allows me to better observe cat behavior by comparing what each cat does when presented with the same situation. Charlie is a relatively brave cat while Cassie is shy and quick to run away from perceived danger. Or at least that seemed to be the case.

I live alone with my two cats and I rarely invite visitors while my house is being renovated. So, my cats rarely experience strangers in my home and, when anyone one does come, the cats hide.

Charlie is always the first to emerge from hiding, usually within a few minutes. Cassie will remain in hiding for as much as two hours after the strange human has left.

When Charlie hides, she usually tunnels under the comforter on my bed and doesn't move. I always get a laugh when I show visitors the big lump on the bed. However, I rarely can find where Cassie is hiding. I just have to wait for her to come out from wherever she is.

One time I had a large crew of construction workers at the house and they had to do their work in all of the rooms. The work was noisy and the men spoke loudly with gruff voices as they worked. The cats could not avoid them. At one point I saw Charlie running in a panic down the stairs, only to come to realize the same danger was present downstairs as it was upstairs. She quickly reversed herself and darted back upstairs. At another point, I heard the men upstairs all shout, "Whoa!" I went upstairs to see what they were reacting to. They said they were suddenly surprised by a cat jumping out from nowhere.

After the men left, I went looking for the poor cats. I went all through the house calling them for about 15 minutes. I finally found Charlie tunneled inside a rolled up comforter at the bottom of the guest bed. I wouldn't have found her except that she stuck one black paw out of the roll as if to say, "I'm in here but I'm not coming out yet." Cassie eventually appeared two hours later, shaken and still frightened. She remained under the bed the rest of that day and the next. They didn't forget this experience for several days. For the next few days they were especially subdued and both sought my attention more than usual.

I've had out-of-town friends stay the night and only Charlie will have the bravery to venture out to meet the friend. But this will be only after about an hour of their arrival and only very tentatively. Cassie will not be found the whole time the person is visiting.

Because Cassie is so small, half the size of Charlie even though they are the same age, I was concerned that Cassie was taking the brunt of their play fighting. Charlie clearly dominated Cassie and Cassie seemed to have no defense against Charlie's superior size and strength. For months I felt guilty for "imprisoning" poor Cassie with such a formidable opponent as Charlie. I asked a veterinarian what to do about it and he said, "They're cats. They will sort it out."

Then one day, Cassie apparently decided she wasn't going to take it anymore. I watched with amazement as Cassie suddenly stood her ground and confronted Charlie. Charlie was apparently surprised too. She acted confused. Cassie had come to realize that her small size was actually an advantage. Charlie just couldn't move, jump or reverse movement as well as little Cassie could. I watched with profound amazement as Cassie ran circles around Charlie. This was totally new behavior on Cassie's part. And I watched as Cassie would sometimes avoid direct confrontation and, knowing where Charlie was sitting, would quietly and stealthily walk a wide circle around and come up behind Charlie and pounce on her back. I was so proud of little Cassie when she backed Charlie into a corner and all Charlie could do was hiss back at her.

Cassie now has learned many techniques for bravely dealing with big Charlie. One is when Charlie is quietly laying on a bed, Cassie will run, jump and come flying through the air at Charlie with paws splayed and claws out. She doesn't attack but this is enough to intimidate Charlie. Cassie is now an equal match for Charlie, thanks to Cassie overcoming her fears with apparent bravery.


Hi George... thanks for this very interesting article. I changed the title (hope you are OK with that) as the phrase "brave cat" is a keyword (a search term) while "cat bravery" is not. It means your article should get read more!....Michael

From Brave Cat to Moggies

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Brave Cat

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Jan 10, 2011
Bring It
by: Claudia

I enjoyed your story George. I laughed out loud and could picture the actions of both Charlie and Cassie. Good for Cassie for finding her inner strentgh!

Jan 09, 2011
Simon's Song
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

Michael has posted a recording of the song about Simon, Able Seacat under Cat Sounds.

Dec 11, 2010
Thanks, Finn
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

You have a good ear, Finn! I like to think my students from years ago would have caught that too, but I wrote that song after I quit teaching music. Once while I was working on a Palm Sunday anthem for my choir I shared with my 7th graders at the Catholic school where I taught that I was stuck. Palm Sunday is both triumphant and sad at the same time, since it foreshadows Christ's suffering and death, even as He triumphantly enters Jerusalem. How could I put both things in the same song? The kids didn't even take a minute to think about it. "Put the sad part in a minor key," they said. Couldn't believe I didn't think of that, but I was really happy they did.

I have a good start on Simon's song. It is to the part where the captain discovers that Simon has been smuggled aboard the Amethyst. Michael will post it as soon as I'm finished.

Dec 11, 2010
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi George. I too enjoyed this article a lot. Your observations are absolutely right - size may help in a fight, but so do speed. And also ranking in the cat hierarchy has to do with more than just winning fights.
Our two old cats are clearly both Alpha females, and although they get on a lot better than two years ago, it is still an armed neutrality. Shelter moggie Snow White is twice the size of Norwegian Milly, but Milly has never yiealded to her. On the other hand Snow White knows she does not have to surrender either, so she just holds her head hight while curiously looking down at Milly.

And Ruth. Your song about the little police dog is great and in the very best ballad tradition. I noted the shift to a minor key for the sad part - you are truly tallented. 🙂

Dec 08, 2010
your song
by: George

Thanks for posting your sweet song. You are brave too.

Dec 07, 2010
Song by Ruth
by: Michael

Here is Ruth's song about Herman. Just click on the link. Your computer should run a program that reads the file and lets you hear the song. Just follow the prompts:

Herman's Song

Dec 07, 2010
Simon's Song
by: Michael

If you could write and sing Simon's Song that would be very nice indeed.

I have your song about Herman, which I will try and publish on this page in the form of a link.


Dec 07, 2010
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

I have it recorded already using Garage Band software. I can e-mail it to you as an mp3. I have a few other animal songs, but nothing about cats yet. I used to teach school so they are all like mini science lessons set to music. I don't know how much interest those songs would be to people who visit this site.
The retired police officer I interviewed about Herman is also a WW II vet and I wrote another, longer song about his early wartime experiences. I have a project going writing songs about ordinary people who should be remembered as heroes. These include (among others) Thomas Allen, an escaped slave who unofficially served in the Civil War; Joseph Lacrosse, a young boy who saved a baby during the Peshtigo Fire; and two songs about Native Americans in the Wisconsin Dells area who, in various ways, fought for the rights (and very lives) of their people. I decided to include the song about Herman into that project, because even though he was just a little dog he had his part to play in the lives of those who serve and protect. He is still so fondly remembered today by a lot of people around here.
Maybe I'll write about Simon the cat next. I can't write a song about Monty because I'm too close to him. If I'm too close to the subject I can't do it. I want so much to write a song about my grandfather who worked in a foundry during WW II. He did double and triple shifts and in the end it hurt his health and, I'm convinced, shortened his life. That was his contribution to the war effort.
But putting it to music is all about what you have to leave out. You have to give a partial picture in the song-- there isn't room for the whole story. If it's someone close to me I can't seem to tell what's relevant or not and I get frustrated because no song can completely capture a person's life. If I just research a person I didn't know I can more easily put something together about them.
When I finish a song about Simon I will send that to you, though it may take awhile. I have to cram all the information up in my head and just let it tick away in there for awhile while I'm doing other things. When it's ready I can write it down, but nothing worth hearing will come of it until it's pretty much done in my head.

Dec 07, 2010
Song by Ruth
by: Michael

Hi Ruth. I would like to hear you sing your song! I know you can sing...:)

Why don't you record the song or any other cat or animal song and I'll publish it.

How do you record something? If you have a PC there will probably be a small program that will do it for you.

Most modern computers have recording software. You can then send the file to me and I'll put it on this page!

Dec 07, 2010
Simon a brave cat
by: Michael

Hi, thanks for that pointer, George. Here is a picture of Simon that I reproduce under the Wikimedia Commons license:

Dec 06, 2010
Simon, a brave cat
by: Anonymous

Michael, the story of Simon, the Dickin Medal awarded cat you mentioned, is presented on the Wikipedia website, here:

Dec 06, 2010
little police dog
by: George

Thanks, Ruth. I loved your poem about the little police dog. Your story confirms that size doesn't matter but bravery does, just like in Cassie's case.

Dec 06, 2010
Animals do their part
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

You write so well, George, that I could really picture the interactions of your cats!
I enjoyed Michael's comments also. Simon reminded me of Herman. Herman was a stray dachshund who became a police dog in West Allis, but not in the usual sense. He was great for morale and public relations. I wrote a song about him:

He never saved a human life,
nor rescued anyone,
yet he was there at close of day,
when the officers' work was done.

He was so small, a tiny dog,
police dog just the same,
his name was Herman, and they say,
one day he simply came.

He came to live in cold garage,
where the squad cars all were kept.
The officers all bought his food,
and they took him to the vet.

That little dog was full of pep;
he liked to run and play.
Yet he kept safe around the cars
that came and went each day.

West Allis children loved him too,
approached him without fear.
He taught them well to trust police
and want to have them near.

He lived a long and happy life,
for he never was alone.
A friendly pat before each shift
or a treat when they were done.

Then came that dark day, Herman did die.
They had lost one of their own.
Brave men were not ashamed to cry,
for they loved that dog as their own;
they'd been glad to give him a home.

Now dry your eyes this tale's not sad,
though Herman's gone away.
He showed us how, no matter how small,
we can do our part each day.

(I sang it at a festival in West Allis one year and my friend's kids did cry when I got to the part where Herman dies.)

I think when people have to do difficult or dangerous work animals can play a tremendous part in helping them. Monty helps me deal with the stress and sadness associated with working at a skilled nursing facility.
I interviewed a retired police officer to get Herman's story and his memories of Herman were still very vivid. He said Herman was so smart that he learned to look at the lines drawn on the floor of the garage and he knew where the cars were going to go and stayed clear of them.
At first the police officers were afraid he might roam again, and people would complain that the police department couldn't control their own dog. They chained him to this weight, but the dog would just drag it around. After awhile he became this little "iron dog." The officers eventually realized Herman wasn't going anywhere and untied him.
I had to use my imagination a bit to do the song and my source's wife was amazed and told me, "You're right, many of the men did cry!" Although her husband never told me that detail, I knew it would be true.
Herman died of old age and was buried with honors in 1975 by the same funeral home that served fallen officers. He now rests in a cemetery near the historical society museum, with a head stone bigger than many people have! It says, "Beloved Friend."

Dec 06, 2010
On the subject of cat bravery and brave cats
by: Michael

I made this short post on a blog a number of years ago:

Animal (and for me cat) bravery is very touching. In the UK there is a medal called the Dickin Medal which is awarded to animals for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while serving for the armed forces. It is the animals' Vitoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry in the UK. The award is very rarely made. There are some incredible stories of gallantry so you can image that the animals awarded the Dickin Medal have been outstanding in carrying out their duties in war.

60 Dickin Medals have been awarded since its inception in 1943 by Maria Dickin CBE who founded the PDSA a large animal charity employing about 1500 people.

Of these 60, there is only one cat, Simon who has been awarded the medal. Simon served on HMS Amethyst a ship of the size of a frigate as a rat catcher. He found his way on board when a member of the crew spotted him in Hong Kong. At the time he was smuggled on board he was sickly. He endeared himself to the crew and kept the rats down.

He was caught up in the Yangtze incident. This incident occurred on April 29th 1949 on the Yangtze river in China. The ship was bombarded by field guns on the shore that hit the ship 50 times and caused severe damage. The shelling killed 22 and and wounded 31.

The award was made posthumously (after his death) after the incident. Simon was wounded by one of the 50 shells that hit the ship. Four pieces of shrapnel were removed from him. he survived to continue his duties which included boosting the morale of the crew.

His "behaviour throughout was of the highest order.." The blast that injured him made a hole a foot diameter in steel plate.

Simon was an exceptional cat because he was able to function normally under such horrendous conditions for both human and cat. He died shortly after returning to England as a result of an infection while in quarantine. The entire crew of HMS Amethyst turned out for the funeral and hundreds of others.

Simon was smallish black and white moggie with a gentle face. There are pictures on the 'net of him but I do not have permission to use the photos at the time of writing this.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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