From Jethro, who helped his owner overcome serious mental health issues, to Walter, who raises the alarm when his owner has a diabetic hypo – meet the cats in the running to be crowned the UK’s next National Cat of the Year
It’s the star-studded event of 2019, and this year the Cats Protection National Cat Awards is shining a light on the life-changing bond that can exists between a cat and its owner.
Across five heart-warming cat-egories – Furrever Friends, Hero Cat, Most Caring Cat, Outstanding Rescue Cat, and PURINA® Better Together – 15 cats will go whisker-to-whisker to win in their group, with one special moggy going on to be awarded the title of National Cat of the Year.
But what does it take to make the final? Meet five of the fur-midable cats who have made it this year.
Chi, making every day less overwhelming
Social anxiety, stress, and isolation are all things that eight-year-old Finley – who is autistic and has sensory processing disorder – struggles with on a daily basis. But when Finley’s parents decided to adopt a cat, with the hope that it would bring Finley some comfort, things took a dramatic turn for the better.
The bond between Finley and Chi was instant, and – with Chi by his side – Finley is now building social networks with fellow cat-lovers.
“Chi really is an ambassador for cats, and helping more people understand what wonderful therapy they can be for children with ASD,” says Jo, Finley’s mum.
Monty, the caring puss
Olivia and Dave’s lives were torn apart when Dave was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer at the age of 26. In a move to make the most of their final months together, Olivia and Dave decided to adopt a rescue cat. Monty completed their family, and offered the couple a world of comfort during an incredibly difficult time.
In Dave's final moments, Monty was with him at the hospice – and today Monty is there for Olivia, offering her comfort and support through an impossibly difficult time.
Walter, the seizure-detecting super-cat
Hazel, who has type 1 diabetes, has to be very careful during the night – when falling blood sugar levels means that she’s at risk of a diabetic hypo (when blood sugars fall too low) while she sleeps.
While it is possible to train animals to be medical detection pets, Hazel’s cat Walter had no such training, and – when Hazel was having a nocturnal hypo – instinctively began to patting on her face until she woke up.
“He’s a really great pet and I love having him around,” says Hazel. “But he’s more than that, he’s a lifesaver.”
Sparky, there for her owner through PTSD
Following a terrifying random attack that left Kirsty blind in one eye, she struggled with PTSD and a separate health condition that caused her to faint unexpectantly. Through it all, Sparky has been by her side – offering the comfort and support that she needs to keep working through the challenges.
“I find it really hard to leave the house,” Kirsty says. “But because of Sparky, I’m never alone – it’s me and her against the world.”
Jethro, helping his owner live independently
Living with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety – and following a period in a psychiatric hospital when she was 23 – it was thought unlikely that Abi would be able to live an independent life. But everything changed when Abi’s parents decided to adopt Jethro for her.
With Jethro by her side, Abi flourished. Now 32, she’s studying at university, working as a youth support worker, and living life to its full with her friend-for-life, Jethro.
The National Cat Awards take place on 8 August. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and helps around 200,000 cats and kittens each year through its national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 36 centres. Find out more at cats.org.uk