Pfc (Private first class) Hammer was a tabby kitten born at the US military’s base for the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He had two siblings but they ran away never to be seen again while Hammer stayed and became a working cat by keeping the mice population down in the living quarters and dining facility. He also pleased some of the soldiers with his companionship in an emotionally difficult environment.
He was adopted by the troops. Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield said that he was like a therapist:
“You’d come in off raids where we’d been kicking in doors and guys would be sitting outside by themselves. He’d come over and take their minds off the war.”
The Iraq war started in March 2003 and not long before April 2004 Hammer’s unit was due to return to Fort Carson in Colorado, their base in the US.
Bousfield wanted to bring Hammer back to the US with the troops. He emailed Alley Cat Allies (ACA) in the US for help.
“If there was a way that ACA could help get Hammer back to the States, it would be a wonderful boost for the men to see the cat who has won their hearts free like the Iraqi people.”
ACA felt an obligation to help and were pleased to oblige:
“This was a soldier in Iraq writing us. How could we say no to a soldier in Iraq fighting for freedom? His e-mail was so moving we felt like we couldn’t say no. We had never done anything like this, but the moment we finished reading it, it was a given that we were going to figure out how to do this.”
ACA posted the story on their website and the donations poured in. They teamed up with Military Mascots a non-profit dedicated to bringing dogs from Iraq befriended by soldiers.
They also worked with a veterinary hospital in Kuwait and arranged for an international flight after a veterinarian made sure Hammer was healthy and neutered. The vet believed that Hammer was an Egyptian Mau. Well, in Egypt a lot of the street cats are original Egyptian Maus!
Bousfield returned home in April 2004 and Hammer arrived a week or so later. They were greeted by an ACA volunteer at San Francisco airport from where they travelled on a domestic flight Denver.
Bousfield’s daughter, Tiffany aged 15 and a colleague Sgt. Robert Scott were waiting at Denver Airport when they arrived.
Hammer and Bousfield were close companions at this time. Their friendship had been forged under the trying conditions of war.
Hammer lives or lived with Bousfield’s family and five more cats. After a little while settling down they all got along. They kept Hammer in a room by himself for a week. He became fully integrated into the family.
The report from the archives of the US Department of Defence does not tell us what happened subsequently. The report is dated April 2004. That’s more than 15 years ago. Hammer would have been around 16 of 17 this year, so he could still be alive. I was unable to find details on his longevity.
It is a nice story of how the domestic cat can genuinely improve lives of men under stress. Hell, we know that domestic cats are de-stressors. Here was a situation where a cat could and did come into his own. This is the best kind of PR for the domestic cat.