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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cats of World War One

This blogpost which I found via a tweet by Jonathan Calder is absolutely fascinating. It outlines the role played by cats during World War One, hunting mice and rats in ships and in trenches and being embraced as mascots by the soldiers and sailors who they comforted.

The author, Mark Strauss says that an estimated 500,000 cats were dispatched to the trenches, where they killed rats and mice; some were also used as gas detectors. At sea, cats had the run of the ship — a tradition dating back thousands of years.

As the U.S. Naval Institute explains:
It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates. In addition to offering sailors much needed companionship on long voyages, cats provided protection by ridding ships of vermin. Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into the provisions, chew through ropes and spread disease. The more superstitious sailors believed that cats protected them by bringing good luck. It was also common for crews to adopt cats from the foreign lands they visited to serve as souvenirs as well as reminders of their pets at home.

What I enjoyed most about the post were the photographs, which illustrate better than I can explain in writing, how cats find the most unusual and often photogenic places to settle.
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