Soldiers from different military branches, different cities and different countries from all over the world were involved in the Great War. Everyone was seemingly a part of it. “Everyone” included cats. They hunted rats and mice in the trenches and on ships. They served as mascots and pets to the sailors and soldiers. Some were also used to detect gas.
One cat, named Pitouchi, is said to have saved a soldier’s life, according to author Susan Bulanda, in her book Soldiers in Fur and Feathers:
“As Lekeux reached a spot near the German lines, he saw that they were digging a new trench. He hid himself in a shell hole nearby to make a sketch of the German works. He was so absorbed in his sketch that he did not notice approaching German soldiers on patrol. When he finally realized his situation, it was too late to run.
He decided to lie very still, hoping that the Germans would not see him, but unfortunately he heard one soldier say, “He’s in the hole,” so he knew he had been seen.
When Pitouchi heard the German say that, he jumped out of the hole onto a piece of timber. The Germans were startled and fired two shots at Pitouchi. However, as frightened as he was, Pitouchi was not hit, and he jumped back into the hole with his beloved Lekeux.
The Germans laughed and joked that they had mistaken a cat for a man and left. Lekeux finished his drawings and returned to the Belgian lines with Pitouchi on his shoulders.”
Without cats, World War I would not have been quite the same. Mice and rats would have overrun ships and trenches, eating and/or spoiling the food. The men fighting would not have had a companion to distract them from the war, even if for only a few minutes. And Lt. Lekeux may not have survived.
What do you think of cats’ roles in war? Let us know in the comments.