Friday, July 23, 2010

Cats and Soldiers

After reading a lot about "war dogs", the canines who assist our troops in war zones, I'd often wondered about cats in war zones, and what types of relationships may exist between them and soldiers. Then I ran across this story about a soldier's special relationship with a kitten, and it warmed my heart.

In Vietnam, soldiers who were leaving in a hurry when American troops were being withdrawn were heartbroken at having to leave behind the dogs who had saved their lives so many times. Since the dogs weren't allowed on military transport planes, they had to be left to an uncertain fate. Their story alerted so many people to their plight that non-profit groups now help bring these dogs home.

But the military doesn't officially train cats for any duties. Those of us who know cats know them to be intelligent and trainable, but they just aren't used by the military. And in a war zone, animals in general are suffering, especially in cultures where pets are not valued as they are in ours. So it would be natural that stressed-out soldiers facing fear and horror daily would find comfort in their soft coats, gentle ways and purring response to affection.

But now that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)in returning soldiers is getting more attention, I believe there is a great need that cats could help to fill for the military. Perhaps shelter cats facing euthanasia could instead be employed as comfort-givers to soldiers. Injured or special-needs cats could help inspire and comfort injured soldiers. Both of their lives could be saved by such a program. Anybody else think this might be a good idea? Any ideas on how to get it going?

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