It’s fairly well known that several British cats “served” during the World Wars. On ships, they protected the valuable food stores from rodents as well as being ship’s mascots and welcome companions to the crewmen.
However there were thousands of not so famous cats that had to endure the calamities of war.
During WWI and II, the British Government failed to take into account that many cats were not service animals but part of a family.
A Home Office pamphlet dictated that pets would not be allowed in public air-raid shelters. Families without private gas proof shelters faced a huge dilemma.
Cat owners would refuse to leave their pets behind and went unimaginable lengths to to protect them. Some chose to stay at home with their pets rather than go to a public shelter without them.
A woman in the south-west of England was refused permission to return home to feed her cats, so she sneaked through the barrier to do it. She was fined £1 for doing so but it also turned out the police officer had been sympathetic to her plight and had fed the cats himself.
A man from Poplar, East London refused to leave his family cats behind: “I know the missus and kids are safe, but if I went to the shelter, too, I’d be thinking about how the animals were getting on.”
Another cat owner in London even telephoned the Lord Mayor of St. Pancras demanding an air raid shelter for her cat.
Letters that appeared in local newspapers made it clear that many families considered their animals as important as themselves and societies such the the R.S.P.C.A. and Our Dumb Friends League offered advice and help, including appeals to finders of bombed out animals to offer temporary shelter until they could be collected by one of these organisations.
Considering the large number of animal lovers who were deamanding a fair treatment to their family pets, the the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee was established to ensure the well-being of domestic animals under war conditions.
Pet cats could be issued with a NARPAC collar and registration disc that could help ensure their return if they were found straying during, or after, a blitz or blackout.
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