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Household pets join the forces

Ena Ryan of Wellington was a young girl when war was declared in August 1914, but she vividly recalled the excitement of those days. In this 1985 interview she describes watching the Main Body marching through the streets of Wellington to the departing ships. She noticed that one of the men had a kitten buttoned into his tunic. Once they arrived at the battlefront the men adopted other pets, including dogs, donkeys and goats found in and around battlefields. These animals helped to keep up the mens’ spirits, and some became official mascots.

Year:1914 (Recorded 1985)

Location:Wellington, New Zealand

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Household pets join the forces

Ena Ryan of Wellington was a young girl when war was declared in August 1914, but she vividly recalled the excitement of those days. In this 1985 interview she describes watching the Main Body marching through the streets of Wellington to the departing ships. She noticed that one of the men had a kitten buttoned into his tunic. Once they arrived at the battlefront the men adopted other pets, including dogs, donkeys and goats found in and around battlefields. These animals helped to keep up the mens’ spirits, and some became official mascots.


Year: 1914 (Recorded 1985)

Length: 05:13

Production Company: Radio New Zealand

Credits: Produced by: Jack Perkins

Source: Radio New Zealand Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

Catalogue Reference: 18285 Spectrum. 510/511: Views from under the parasol


People: Ena Ryan

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Subject: Wellington, Declaration of War, Troop Departures


Image Title: Ensconced in an opening in a sandbagged dugout, a cat, probably a mascot, looks up expectantly at the approach of an unidentified soldier.

Image Source: Courtesy of Australian War Memorial, ID C02235


When the Main Body departed from New Zealand, morale was high. The young men who volunteered were promised the glory of a quick victory. However, it soon became apparent that the war was going to last much longer than anyone had anticipated. Keeping pets helped to keep the men’s spirits up and bring some semblance of normality to their lives. They kept cats, dogs and unusual ones like donkeys and goats. Some of the animals were brought over from home, such as the kitten buttoned into the soldier’s tunic in Ena Ryan’s memory, and others were found on or around the battlefields.

Cats were popular wartime pets and were valued in the trenches, on ships and in field hospitals for their rat-catching prowess.

Many regiments had official animal mascots and some of them, such as Caesar the Anzac Dog, were trained to perform special duties. Caesar was trained as a Red Cross search and rescue dog, and located wounded soldiers in No Man’s Land (the deserted area between the opposing lines of battle).