Should the U.S. Military Have More Feline Companions?


Pictured here is a Coast Guard Captain in his chair with Salty and her two kittens, keeping warm together.

Milo Martinson, Photojournalist

You wouldn’t think that cats would be a good fit for a branch of the military that revolves around water; however, felines have been used as a key asset in the Coast Guard for centuries.

Up until the 1970s, cats were used in different branches of the military for a variety of different reasons, but it was mainly to keep mice out of food supplies. Not only did they hunt any rodents that may have stowed away on ships, but they also provided the sailors with the comforts of home while off at sea for months on end. The presence of these little furballs boosted team morale among most sailors and created a bit of lighthearted joy aboard the ships they sailed on. Despite the benefits, the use of cats, as well as other animals, aboard military ships has been banned since 1975, due to hygiene concerns. Nowadays, the Coast Guard has discovered more effective ways to take care of pest problems, so the need for cats decreased rapidly. Cats are now used in the same ways as dogs in the military, as trained animals with the purpose of helping detect explosives, as well as helping with certain special operations. 

“Cats always serve, apparently in the military now too,” Bo Stotmore (11) commented on this particular matter. Cats seemed to be a very important asset within the Coast Guard community; some cats were even rewarded with badges and passports, so why ban them altogether? In theory, cats accompanying soldiers on their long voyages out to sea is an adorable concept. However, with modern technology, it’s not as functional as it used to be. Cats are very complex creatures, taking lots of time and dedication in order to properly train. Having cats on boats can be risky as well, as some cats have a more daring personality and won’t hesitate to jump off a moving boat. I do believe that cats can still be very valuable to the military, just maybe with more specific jobs and more training. Just like dogs, cats can be trained in many different areas. As recent as 2018, cats have been recruited into bomb squads and special operations due to their cleverness and agile physique. They are more well suited than dogs for certain objectives, especially ones involving stealth and precision.

Cats always serve, apparently in the military now too

— Bo Stotmore (11)

Although cats are not used in the same way they used to be, they are still a part of the military community in their own way. I think cats trained to do the job are a great addition to our country’s defenses; however, I’m also glad they aren’t on as many boats anymore. As a cat owner myself, I would panic if my cats were outside the house without a leash, let alone aboard a boat. My style of cat parenting is constant indoor care, because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if they were in harm’s way without me being able to help. I would worry about these cats on Coast Guard ships, mainly because if the boat hits a storm or is invaded, who’s to say the cat won’t be harmed. In military operations, it is a different situation. The cats are well trained, and have lived their entire lives for these kinds of tasks. Just like military dogs, they were conditioned since birth to serve our country. They love doing it, and they’ve received years and years of preparation and training. Although the photos from when kittens and puppies were welcomed aboard military ships are super cute, and definitely a serotonin booster to look at, I can’t help but feel the current system of animals in the army is best suited for our times.