It might not be the well-known fact to the general public, but cats play an incredible role during war. This is especially true during the first and second world war where over 500 000 cats were deployed to the trenches and thousands more to army basis and the navy. From the allied cats and the Red Army all the way to the swasticats, cats are the true unsung heroes of the first and second world war.

Throughout world war one and world war two cats were a common sight in the trenches and aboard ships, where they hunted mice and rats. Beyond their “official” duties, they were also embraced as mascots and pets by the soldiers and sailors with whom they served. I can totally imagine the personalities of Meow Meow and Bubbles comforting me after a long day of killing hundreds of people.

Over 500 000 cats were deployed to the trenches to help fight off rats and mice and some were also used as gas detectors; I am not entirely sure how that works I will need to do some research on it, but I saw on various places including Wikipedia that they refer to some of the tasks the cats did was to detect gases that are harmful to humans.

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.

Perhaps cats humanise war a bit, in a back-handed way. You can’t have cats around without them serving as a bit of a reminder of earlier, better times when you went to foreign places simply to visit and meet the people and not destroy anything that dares to stand in your way.

Sometimes, though, it is good to have a reminder that no matter how you may feel about your opponent, who we all know is the blackest of blackhearts and who has no redeeming features whatsoever, that there are others involved in the destruction we wreak as well. Whilst you are busy exterminating the ‘hated foe’ and making the world safe for democracy or whatever cause you fight for, there are innocent creatures about who will also suffer from your righteous anger. It’s a fact of life, and it gives a bit of perspective on the world and our responsibility to it. Perhaps the soldiers in these pictures understand that and show it by having a cat around.

Without further ado here are the cats that changed history