A soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord is crediting a stray cat with helping survive the war in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott shared his heartwarming story with the Andrew Walsh Show this week.
“There was this cute cat running running around and doing his cute kitten things,” Knott said about the first time he saw cat at his base in Southern Afghanistan. “Everybody fell in love with him.”
As the cat got older, Knott began noticing signs of abuse.
“That’s when I stepped in and intervened.”
Knott was doing intelligence work and lured the cat into his office with a piece of steak. He took the cat in and nursed his wounds. He named it Koshka, which is Russian for cat.
“This bond just started to develop between the two of us that I couldn’t put words to.”
Knott said most of the guys just ignored the feral cats roaming the base and left them alone because they help keep the rodent population down. But when it came to Koshka, he was technically breaking the rules.
“It was kind of an understanding that if the cat became an issue, it would have to be dealt with.”
When things got tough, Koshka helped get him through the darkest days. When two of his friends were killed in a suicide attack, Knott said the cat “was my saving grace.”
“I just kind of started going into a deep depression, and the cat really keyed up on me and started playing more,” he said. “He wouldn’t let me stew and kept reminding me to take care of him.”
The bond became so strong, Knott became desperate to bring Koshka back to the United States with him when his deployment was over. But it wasn’t easy.
Knott said he was desperate and thought about taking the cat in his duffel bag, but an interpreter who knew the situation offered to take Koshka through Kabul while on a vacation.
“The interpreter could have gotten into trouble because the locals believe cats are simply rodent catchers and would have caught on that this cat with a collar was an American soldier’s cat.”
Why would the man risk it for an American?
“It’s one of the remarkable things about the Afghan people is their sense of friendship and honor.”
It was the start of a journey half-way around the world. A group known as the Afghan Stray Animal League helped facilitate a series of flights from Islamabad to New York to Portland and ultimately to Oregon City, Ore. where Knott’s parents live.
It cost Knott just under about $3,000 for all the airfare. But it was worth every penny.
“To think that that was a feral cat and he just behaves like the most domestic cat… he’s part of the family.”
Knott is not allowed to have the cat at JBLM and said he misses him terribly, and can’t wait to be reunited after he leaves the military.