In honor of Veterans Day, we’re showcasing service members who have saved lives off the battlefield by adopting at-risk cats in desperate need of homes.
The following felines found second chances with help from Pets for Patriots, a non-profit organization that pairs active and retired military members with older and special-needs pets at reduced adoption costs. The organization partners with shelters and humane societies to get these often overlooked animals into life-saving living situations.
Since military stories involving pets tend to favor dogs, we thought it was time to give veterans and their cats a chance in the spotlight.
MARK AND CALLIE
A dual Marine-Army veteran, Mark served with the Marine Corps in the mid-'70s and then spent eight years in the Army as a heavy-wheel-vehicle mechanic. He left the military with the rank of sergeant first class. When his beloved Pug died after 18 years, he and his wife decided to adopt another animal. Though Mark wanted a dog, his wife argued for a cat. The couple decided to take a peek inside the Michigan Humane Society – a Pets for Patriots partner – and came across a 7-year-old Calico cat. Mark was smitten. He named her Callie and says the quirky cat brings immeasurable amounts of joy to the household.
LAWRENCE AND TWEEDY
With a grade-two heart murmur and impaired vision, Tweedy is a special-needs cat. But it was the eye disease that makes his peepers all black that attracted an Army veteran named Lawrence. Lawrence had wandered into a local Petco where the Michigan Humane Society was showing adoptable felines. “I asked to look at the cats and was attracted to Tweedy because of the way he looked,” he said.
Tweedy’s condition resulted in him going in and out of a few homes. Lawrence was determined to make his house the cat’s permanent residence. “You’ve got to be open-minded and accept the pet for his eccentricities, just like he has to accept yours,” he said. “I wanted to give Tweedy a good home, given his history of being bounced around. We’ve become great friends.”
JAMES AND MANDY
A retired Army veteran, James served in both World War II and the Korean War. Throughout his life, James enjoyed the company of pets. After he retired from the army and settled at home with his wife and six children, he had a beloved cat who died at the age of 17. James figured he would wait until taking in another feline, but three weeks later he met a 6-year-old cat at the Animal Protective Foundation in New York. James admits that these days, Mandy the orange tabby rules the house and he wouldn't have it any other way.
D'ANN AND LILY
D’Ann joined the Navy to improve her life, calling it “the best decision I ever made.” But this married sailor lives a “geo bachelor” existence. She often is separated from her partner due to the demands of their careers. It was long shifts and the loneliness of not having her husband around that inspired D’Ann to adopt an older cat. She was looking to skip the hyperactive-kitten stage and found her match at the Virginia Beach SPCA. She took in Lily, a 6-year-old cat with big yellow eyes.
“I know what it’s like to sit in a place for months and months at a time, wondering if there was any hope at all of my situation improving,” D'Ann said about her decision to adopt Lily.
ERIK AND BRAZIL
Erik was based in Babenhausen, Germany, for two years before being deployed in 1990 to the Gulf to fight in Desert Storm. Eight months later, he returned to Germany and soon became ill from the chemical exposure he suffered during his tour. After receiving a medical discharge, Erik married and relocated to Florida, where he volunteered at a local shelter to help socialize cats prior to adoption. While there, he met Brazil, an adult orange tabby.
Even though he lives on a limited income, Erik said the adoption process became more affordable for his family through the Pets for Patriots program. He's happy to report that Brazil is very affectionate, noting that “it’s a real blessing to have her here."
KATHY AND SONJA (AND BEAR)
Kathy and her husband are retired from the Navy, having collectively served 30 years with tours in places like Bermuda, Iceland, Wales and Pakistan. But when the couple began to settle into civilian life, they felt like the house was too empty and something was missing. They found the solution in adult feline siblings Sonja and Bear. Because both cats were already 9 years old, the chances for them to be adopted together – or even apart – were slim to none until Kathy and her husband came along.
JOE AND BO DA CAT
Joe is a Navy veteran and dog lover who had hoped to bring a shelter dog into his life, but was surprised when he found his match in a 7-year-old cat adopted from the Sacramento SPCA. The Vietnam vet says he now finds relaxation in the purr of his “BFF,” a cat whose name has gone from Bo-Baby to Bo to Bo da Cat.
“I was a ‘I hate cats’ guy for a long time,” Erik said. “Now, at least, I love this cat! I don’t take pet ownership lightly, but this cat is awesome!"
KATRINA AND RUMER
Katrina trained as an Army motor transport operator at Fort Hood in Texas and was deployed twice, first to Iraq for a year, then to Afghanistan for 15 months. She survived two IED attacks and left the military with a Purple Heart after four years. While transitioning to civilian life, Katrina came across more hurdles. Not only did she endure a divorce and new life as a single mom, but her ex-husband took the family cat with him.
In search of a new companion, Katrina connected with the Humane Society of West Michigan to adopt a cat. That’s how she met Rumer, who was not only at-risk as an adult cat, but also because her solid black fur made adoption even less likely. “Rumer adjusted very quickly and she’s a wonderful addition to my family,” Katrina said. “I love her to death.”
MARTIN AND HEART
Martin joined the Army in 1994 and attended military police training at Fort McClellan in Alabama. He spent a year in South Korea and served with the Michigan Army National Guard.
One day, Martin’s wife and their young daughter visited the Michigan Humane Society. The little girl spotted an 8-year-old cat and fell in love. Soon, the feline was adopted with the name “Heart” because, as Martin says, “She’s a kitten at heart.”
ED AND HARRY
An Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, Ed was recently looking for a companion. He and his daughter visited Animal Protective Foundation in Scotia, N.Y. Having lost his 16-year-old Maltese dog a couple of years before, Ed was ready to adopt another pet. He came across a skittish, adult Maine Coon cat named Harry who seemingly had suffered previous abuse.
Ed was committed to providing Harry with a patient and loving environment. Soon the cat adjusted to his new home and opened up. “We really enjoy each other’s company quite a bit,” Ed said.
DEBORAH AND KATIE J
Deborah is a Navy veteran who traveled the world while on tour during the Vietnam War. But her military career was cut short due to a medical problem. Realizing that pets can be therapeutic companions, she adopted a cat that lived for 23 years. The loss of that cat, along with her husband’s out-of-state job, inspired Deborah to open her home to another adopted cat. She linked up with an adult feline at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. Deborah met Katie J, who wound up being one chatty cat and the perfect solution to her loneliness.
“She’s someone in the house to talk to,” Deborah said, adding that it feels good to help Katie J “have a wonderful home.”
Next: 10 Cats Taking Baths
RICHARD AND TAJI
Richard joined the Army when he was 17. After a year stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. He left the Army in 2011, enrolled in college and joined the Army Reserve. During this time, Richard began volunteering at the Monmouth County SPCA by exercising the shelter’s dogs. He said the extra exercise with the canines “kept me sane as I was re-acclimating to civilian life.”
But Richard is admittedly a cat guy, and soon enough it was a feline duo at the shelter that stole his heart. Richard and his wife adopted Taji, a 4-year-old tiger cat, who qualified as an adult animal under the Pets for Patriots program. At the same time, they took in a kitten named Chaos.
Click here to learn more about Pets for Patriots and its partners.