Cat Bravery Award

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.

Cat Bravery Awards
Cat Bravery Awards. Simon and the Dickin Medal.
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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.

The Unknown

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.

American Cats

Pooli US ship's cat during World War 2
Pooli US ship’s cat during World War 2. Picture copyright Los Angeles Times.

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.

1 thought on “Cat Bravery Award”

  1. Interestingly enough there is a yearly dog award show that started a few years back. Working dogs are honored for their service to mankind. It’s really a cool idea and I love those dogs, but the Hollywood smoozie-type production loaded with the worst kind of lame jokes? Sorry, I sat through it last year and swore never again.

    I do not know of any feline related awards in the US. I am gonna keep an eye out. Maybe we should start our own. Make it a World Wide thing, just for cats. My moms cat Fluffy wokes up when she smelled the beginnings of and electrical fire. I’ve told her story before. A pet raccoon grabbed her by the neck and shook her when she was a kitten. Her large gray Manx father/older brothers came to her rescue. So she wasn’t able to meow over a slight throaty whisper. I have tears in my eyes as I recall her doing her best to meow her loudest. It came out as a loud version of her soft throaty whisper. I was right next to the wall that the fire was in. I touched it and got a slight burn. It was hot. We evacuated. My sister holder Fluffy tight as they put the fire out. Sadly, her Siamese son Tippy died in the fire from the smoke. No doubt about it. Fluffy saved our lives.

    I bet we all have a cat or two we can recommend for an award. I can think of the mother cat in New York that went and out of a burning building to rescue her six kittens. She was burned terribly. She and four of the kittens survived. She was the first cats to receive oxygen by a fire fighter that I heard of.

    Great story.


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