Cats often get a bad rap because they are not as obedient or eager to please as their canine counterparts, but there are many cats that have risked their lives to save people, acted as helping companions to disabled owners and other animals, and provided therapy to those in need.
Cats That Have Saved Lives
When 4-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo was attacked by a vicious dog, the family cat came to the rescue.
Cherry Woods was viciously attacked by two large dogs and might have been killed had her cat Lima not intervened. Alerted by Cherry’s screams, her husband came running out of their home to rescue her, but was unable to drive away the enormous pit bulls. Just then the couple’s normally timid cat leapt from the bushes and attacked the dogs, clawing and hissing. The dogs went after Lima, who led them away. Lima returned later, unharmed, and Cherry recovered from her injuries.
Sophie Thomas, 97, was working in her garden when she was attacked by four large dogs. As Thomas fought for her life, her cat Tiger leapt into the fray, leading the dogs away so that Thomas could escape into the house. As Sophie washed her wounds at the kitchen sink, Tiger returned home, unharmed.
When owner Gary Rosheisen fell from his wheelchair and lay alone and unable to move, his cat Tommy dialed 911 to summon assistance. Gary had trained Tommy to call 911 in an emergency, but hadn’t known if the cat would actually do it.
Lionel Adams credits the early detection of a cancerous tumour to his cat Tiger, who one day began dragging a paw down his owner’s left side over and over again. Concerned over the normally unaffectionate cat’s behaviour, Lionel went in for a check-up, which led to doctors removing a large tumour from his left lung. Had the tumour not been caught in time, Lionel might have died. Dogs have also detected cancer in humans.
Gwen Cooper’s Homer, named after the famous blind Greek author, was a beloved rescue cat who had lost his eyes to a serious infection. When a man broke into Cooper’s home late at night, she woke to find Homer hissing at the intruder. Normally a gentle, mellow cat, Homer launched at the home invader, scratching and biting, which caused him to flee. Homer’s life has been immortalized in two books: Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat and Homer: The Ninth Life of a Blind Wonder Cat.
Masha, a cat living in Obninsk, Russia, found an infant abandoned outdoors in the freezing cold. The plump cat covered him with her body to keep him warm and cried for help, summoning local residents. Masha’s intervention ensured that the baby did not freeze to death (Washington Post, 2015).https://youtu.be/vd0vIXUaizI
Sue MacKenzie saved Tom’s life by taking in the hungry stray during a rainstorm, and more than two decades later, Tom returned the favor. When her 24-year-old cat suddenly started obsessively tapping the back of her neck, MacKenzie was sufficiently concerned about his strange behavior that she took him to a veterinarian. The vet said Tom was fine, so perhaps he was trying to tell her something important. MacKenzie then sought medical attention for herself, receiving a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma and lifesaving treatment (Huffington Post, 2015).
While the Chappell-Root family slept, a fire broke out in their kitchen. Their cat Luna woke Emily Chappel-Root, who was able to wake the rest of her family so that she and her husband could get their 6 children out to safety before flames consumed their home (People Magazine, 2017).
Greg and Trudy Guy were planning to adopt a puppy but instead fell in love with a little black kitten brought into the pet store by a rescue organization. They fostered Schnautzie and eventually adopted her. Six months later they were woken in the middle of the night by the little cat, who sat on Trudy’s chest and tapped her nose until she opened her eyes, then alerted her owners to a growing danger by sniffing frantically. A ruptured gas pipe leading into their house had filled the place with explosive fumes, but the couple was able to escape in time thanks to Schnautzie. Firemen later said that if their water heater or furnace had turned on before they had escaped, there would have been an explosion. Schnautzie’s heroism was recognized by the Great Falls Animal Foundation, which gave her a Purple Paw Award at their Annual Fur Ball (People Magazine, 2010).
Craig Jeeves was woken in the middle of the night by his cat Sally, who was jumping on his head and screaming into his face to make sure he understood the seriousness of the situation. Jeeves found his house in flames and just barely escaped with his life. The house was destroyed and Jeeves was treated for smoke inflammation, but because of Sally’s intervention, he made it out alive and he credits Sally with saving his life (The Guardian, 2014).
Karen, her children and her dog Duke were saved when the loud, persistent meowing of their cat Shadow woke them to find the house filled with carbon monoxide. Without Shadow’s aggressive attempts to alert them, they would have all perished in their sleep.
Kimberley encountered a poisonous snake in her garden. As the snake was about to strike, her cat Sosa attacked it. Sosa suffered a bite on the paw, but recovered after three days in an animal hospital.
Mona was deeply asleep when a blaze ripped through her apartment building. She might have succumbed to smoke inhalation, but her cat Beau threw himself against her closed bedroom door over and over again to make sure she woke up. Unable to remain in the smoke-filled apartment, Mona and Beau waited on the balcony for help to arrive.
(Update: web pages are no longer available for the last three stories.)
These are just a few of the countless stories of cats alerting their owners to danger or attacking other animals to protect their human companions.
Many cats voluntarily become helper companions to blind or deaf humans or other animals. Cashew, a blind and deaf Labrador Retriever belonging to Terry Burns of Pennsylvania, had a great friend in Libby, a tabby who led Cashew around obstacles, guided her to her food dish and slept with her each night. And Libby is not an isolated case.
In Australia, someone dumped a litter of kittens into a garbage can near Adrian Jordan’s workplace. He brought the kittens home and he and his wife bottle-fed them until they were old enough to be adopted. Of the kittens, they kept only Mancat because no one chose him. The Jordans’ elderly Pug, Mary, was nearly blind due to injuries, and by the age of 14 had completely lost her vision. Mancat became Mary’s helper, guiding her around pieces of furniture, accompanying her to the garden and standing beside her during meals to ensure that the Jordans’ other dogs didn’t steal food from her bowl. The Jordans built small steps enabling Mary to climb up to their bed where she slept. Mancat helped Mary negotiate the steps every single night and then snuggled up beside her to sleep.
The video below shows another cat that acts as a seeing-eye cat for a dog.
Blindness is not the only disability with which cats can help. Anecdotal reports by cat owners indicate that many cats become “hearing cats” for deaf owners despite a lack of training. These cats let their owners know when a baby is crying in another room, a doorbell rings or a fire alarm goes off.
Oscar the cat, who lives at a Rhode Island nursing home, rose to fame for his ability to predict impending death and his desire to comfort the dying. When Oscar senses that a patient at the facility will die within hours, he snuggles up to the person and maintains a vigil until the individual passes away. Oscar’s predictions are so accurate that when he singles out a patient, staff contact the person’s relatives. Oscar provides comfort to family members of the dying and company for those who would otherwise die alone. He has been praised in many eulogies and death notices for his compassionate service.
Cats can also provide therapeutic benefits for people with plenty of years ahead of them. There is a growing body of evidence that animals have positive effects on people, particularly children and the elderly.
Dr. Bill Thomas developed the Eden Alternative in 1990 to improve the quality of life in nursing homes. A key element of the Eden Alternative is the use of therapy cats, dogs and birds, which live within the facilities. When the program was implemented for the first time in a New York nursing home, there was a 50% reduction in infection rates and a 71% decline in drug costs (Peri, “Talking with Bill Thomas,” 2008). While this is just one example, it is not surprising. Overall, researchers have found that pet owners suffer fewer physical and psychological disorders.
A study of more than 10,000 pet owners in Australia, China and Germany found that people with pets visited their doctors 15-20% less often (Pet Health Council, “A Pet a Day Keeps the Doctor Away,” 2007). Another study found that the survival rate a year after hospitalization for serious heart problems was 28% among pet owners, compared to just 6% for those without pets (Nash, “Physical and Medical Health Benefits of Pets,” 2005). Pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, which reduces their risk of heart attacks, strokes and other health problems. They are also less likely to suffer from depression and stress-induced health problems (Mayo Clinic, “The Health Benefits of Caring for a Pet,” 2004).s.
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