Cats Protection has revealed the 14 finalists in this year’s National Cat Awards, the UK’s annual celebration of heroism, survival and companionship in the cat world.
From fearless felines that saved the day to miraculous moggies who provide a lifeline in medical emergencies, the finalists are all in the running to be named National Cat of the Year 2018.
This year’s top cat will follow in the pawprints of previous winner Genie, a caring puss from Lincoln who helped schoolgirl Evie Henderson battle bone cancer.
The owners now face a nail-biting wait until Thursday 2 August when winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at London’s Savoy, an event attended by celebrities including BBC broadcaster Andrew Collins, model Lucy Pinder and Holby City actress Chizzy Akudolu.
“Cats make wonderful pets and the Awards is all about celebrating everything we love about them,” Kate Bunting, the Awards organiser, said. “Each and every entry we received reflected the many qualities that have earned cats a special place in our hearts and homes – intuitive, funny, caring and loyal.”
Winners will be selected in five categories – Hero Cat, Most Caring Cat, Furr-ever Friends, Outstanding Rescue Cat and Purina® Better Together – before one is crowned the National Cat of the Year 2018.
The finalists in this year’s Awards are:
Most Caring Cat
Suffering with serious mental health issues, Emily Hatton has spent much of the past eight years receiving care at specialist hospitals. But September 2017 brought a major turning point, when she welcomed kitten Arthur into her life. Having Arthur has helped the 24-year-old adjust to everyday life and live independently for the longest period in her adult life.
“I once got told that I would never be well enough to live in the community, never mind on my own. But I do, and Arthur is the reason why. I have a reason to get up each day and caring for him means I need to think more about caring for myself too,” Emily explained.
The tragic loss of her grandmother was the beginning of a horrific time for Nicola Hamblett. Over the following months, she lost five other close relatives and friends, fell into a deep depression and developed stress-related alopecia. But a ray of sunshine came with the arrival of Awol, who persistently began to visit Nicola’s home at the time of her grandmother’s death. After tracing his previous owner, it was decided Awol should live with Nicola, and over the past year he has helped her through the darkest times.
“Throughout it all, it’s Awol that has helped me through. He gives me a reason to get up, to smile and to cope each day. I really don’t know how I would have got through the past few months without him,” Nicola said.
Dr Richard Thomas’ life was turned upside down after he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Left unable to speak following life-saving treatment, he was dealt a further blow after developing a debilitating illness which required complex brain surgery. Believing it would help his recovery, Richard’s family found Ted in a rescue centre and the pair quickly formed a close bond. Providing company, comfort and great amusement, Ted has been by Richard’s side during the most difficult of times.
Life for 10-year-old Graham Hudson can sometimes be lonely and confusing. Graham has severe learning difficulties which means he can struggle with many areas of everyday life, including communication and maintaining friendships. Fortunately, Graham has his best friend by his side in the form of Lucky, the family’s four-year-old cat.
“Graham isn’t able to join in with the same things as other kids his age and it’s very hard for him to form lasting friendships. But Lucky sees past all of that and is more than a pet – she’s his best friend,” Stepdad James Hamilton explained. “Not only does Graham have someone to cuddle, chat to and play with, he also learns a lot of life skills by helping to look after her.”
Following the sudden death of their dad from an aggressive form of cancer, brothers Luca and Herbie Hoad were left devastated, angry and confused. As the months passed, life seemed to get more difficult and both boys struggled to cope. Hope came in the form of ginger kitten Honey, who once again filled the house with fun and joy. For Luca, 11, and Herbie, seven, their playful new puss was the ray of sunshine they needed to help them cope.
“Honey has brought laughter back into our lives, something which was thin on the ground for a long time,” Mum Clara said. “She’s helping my boys mend their hearts and we think she’s a one-in-a-million.”
Brave Jared Bignold faces a daily battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe muscle wasting condition causing progressive mobility limitations. Yet with his constant companion Salem at his side, it’s a battle Jared never has to face alone. Salem has been a faithful friend to Jared, 15, for the past eight years and the pair share a close bond.
“Jared has been in a wheelchair for a few years now and is very limited in what he’s able to do. Salem is always by his side and provides a huge amount of comfort, affection and entertainment,” Mum Verity explained. “Life is not straightforward for Jared, and it would be easy for him to feel lonely and isolated. But because of Salem, he always has a friend to snuggle up to and chat with.”
Purina Better Together
Seriously ill with cat flu as a tiny kitten, Theo was not expected to survive. But with round-the-clock care and devotion from Charlotte Dixon, the plucky puss pulled through against the odds and became a much-loved pet. Several years later, Theo came to Charlotte’s aid when she woke up one night feeling unwell.
“I was confused and shaky. I just thought I must be a bit off colour, so tried getting back to sleep. But Theo kept pawing at my face, nudging me and jumping onto me every time I drifted off,” Charlotte explained. “A paramedic later told me he thought I had a blood clot and it was a good thing I hadn’t slept, as I probably wouldn’t have woken up again.”Charlotte went to hospital where she made a full recovery.
Since she was a tiny kitten, caring puss Nana has been a constant support to owner Mary Nesbitt-Larking. Mary, 25, was born with hydrocephalus, a rare form of brain damage which affects her coordination and mobility. The condition means Mary has undergone complex brain surgery and suffers frequent painful headaches. Not only is Nana always by her side, the intuitive puss is a soothing presence when Mary is suffering with a headache, wrapping her body close around Mary’s scars from brain surgery. The pair’s close bond is now helping Nana cope with losing her sight due to an incurable eye condition.
“I’ll be making sure she gets all the TLC she needs, just as she does for me,” said Mary.
When Claire Daly heard about a stray handed into a vet with horrific injuries from a car accident, she didn’t hesitate to offer him a home. Nursing him back to health, Stubbsy soon became a much-loved member of the family. And when Claire was diagnosed with leukaemia a few years later in 2015, Stubbsy was there every step of the way, providing non-stop cuddles, entertainment and company as she recovered.
“When he was recovering from his accident, we nursed him through, and a few years later he did exactly the same for me,” said Claire.
For Annette Sterland-Burton and her family, Toby is not just a much-loved pet, he’s a lifeline during a medical emergency. Annette suffers from functional neurological disorder, which causes memory and mobility problems as well as debilitating seizures. But thanks to intuitive Toby, Annette is warned when she’s about to suffer a seizure, allowing son Kieran, nine, to call for help.
“The seizures come out of the blue with no warning, yet Toby can sense when one is about to start. He’ll start pawing me and meowing loudly. He becomes very noisy and just won’t leave me alone,” said Annette.“If I’m alone with my son, he knows to ring his nan or one of his older sisters at this point, and so someone can come to help us.”
Deep in sleep, Sharon Kane was oblivious to the danger unfolding around her as deadly smoke from a fire at a neighbouring property filled her home. But thanks to six-year-old puss Prince Ozzy, who persistently batted her face with his paw, Sharon was woken in time to avoid serious injury.
“I had taken strong medication for a chest infection so I was in a very deep sleep. I don’t think anything would have woken me, but Prince Ozzy was so persistent and kept batting me constantly with his paw,” Sharon explained. After coming round, Sharon was able to open the windows to let out the smoke and although she needed treatment for smoke inhalation, escaped serious injury.
Outstanding Rescue Cat
Eight-year-old Florence has brought comfort and inspiration to a whole community after she was adopted by Reverend Christine French. Settling in immediately to life as a church cat, Florence regularly welcomes brides for weddings and provides a soothing presence at funerals. While services may occasionally be halted after she knocks Rev French’s notes off the pulpit or meows loudly at the door, the cheeky puss is an essential part of church life. What’s more amazing is that former stray Florence is completely deaf, yet doesn’t let her disability affect her.
“Florence’s deafness never stops her living life to the full,” Rev French explained. It’s a message I often share with children when I’m trying to encourage them to achieve their goals. They all love Florence, so it’s a very inspiring way to motivate them and show them that anything is possible.”
Former stray Sox has transformed the lives of patients and staff alike after being adopted by staff at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney. The four-year-old puss provides not only comfort and companionship for patients with brain injuries, he also helps motivate those undergoing therapy.
Staff member Tracy Dipalma, who adopted Sox along with Director of Nursing Emily McWhirter, said, “We’ve had patients determined to walk down corridors so they can come and see Sox, while others have expressed emotions – like giving a thumbs-up – that would normally be difficult. He is fantastic therapy, support and comfort to a huge number of people.”
Diagnosed with terminal cancer in July 2017, Travis Tremayne was given the devastating news he may only have three months to live. Yet a tiny kitten called Lucky would prove to be the inspiration he needed to fight back and continue to live life to the full. Nearly one year later, and undergoing a trial treatment, Travis is brimming with positivity and credits Lucky, who was found alone in a car park as tiny kitten, with helping him take on the battle.
“She’s never far from my side and has got so much zest for life and character,”Travis said. “It’s infectious, and it’s helped spur me on. I can never feel sorry for myself when Lucky is around, and I believe it’s that positivity that has been so important to me. She’s an inspiration and has been such a huge support to me every single day.”