While they have long provided mousing services and companionship to people, cats are sometimes characterized as aloof, selfish, and mercenary in their relationships with humans. Below are the stories of ten heroic felines who defy this stereotype, whose bravery saved people’s’ lives and whose inspiring tales you need to read right meow.
10. Tara stood up to vicious dog to save young boy
After following Roger and Erica Triantello home one day in 2008, Tara, a tabby from Bakersfield, CA lived the first six years of her life like any other housecat, growing particularly close to the couple’s three young sons. On May 13, 2014, Tara would demonstrate just how strong her bond with 4-year old Jeremy was, risking her life to save his.
As Jeremy played on a bike in the front yard of his home, a neighbor’s Labrador/Chow mix, who had escaped from the neighbor’s yard, approached the boy and dragged him off his bike by his leg. Before Erica, who was several yards away could get to her son, Tara sprung into action. Claws unfurled, she attacked the dog, which released Jeremy and ran away. Tara gives chase and then returns to Jeremy. The chilling incident was caught on the family’s security video, which went viral after Roger uploaded it to YouTube for family and friends who doubted the story. More than 25 million people have watched Tara protect her favorite boy. For her courage, Tara, widely dubbed the “Hero Cat” became the first cat ever honored with the SPCA’s “Hero Dog Award” and (with some help) threw out the first pitch for a local minor league baseball game.
9. Masha kept abandoned baby from freezing to death
Masha, a long-haired red cat was a familiar sight to residents of an apartment complex in Obninsk, Russia. She was a communal pet, fed and cared for by many neighbors, generally bunking in a box in the hallway. However, on a frigid January day in 2015, one of the neighbors was greeted with an unexpected sight. Drawn by Masha’s persistent meows, and the cat’s uncharacteristic reluctance to get up to greet her, Irina Lavrova, approached the box to check on the cat and was shocked to discover that Masha was curled up around a tiny infant!
The baby, thought to be about 12 weeks old, was rushed to the hospital, where he was found to be in good condition. Residents of the complex say that with the low temperatures that day, the baby would have had no chance of survival without the cat’s furry embrace shielding him from hypothermia. Masha’s concern for her human charge didn’t end there: reportedly, when paramedics arrived, she tried to jump in the ambulance with the boy. Grateful residents rewarded Masha with extra food treats, and cuddles for her dedication.
8. The cat that helped end a suicide standoff
There are multiple heroes in this story of a man literally talked off the ledge—the San Francisco police negotiators who worked to reason with the devastated man, and the man’s cat, who proved key to ending the standoff.
To understand the situation, let’s back up to how it unfolded. On the afternoon of October 9, 2015, a man was pulled over in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood by the California Highway Patrol because the Toyota Highlander he was driving was missing its license plates. The man sat on the curb while officers questioned him and checked the car’s registration. When the system showed the car had been reported stolen, the man jumped up and ran inside a nearby building. Soon, the suspected car thief was hanging out of a window on the building’s third floor, threatening to jump.
Trained SFPD hostage negotiators quickly responded to the scene and used a nearby escape as a base to try to convince the man not to jump, while their colleagues positioned foam pads below in case the man could not be talked down. Nearly three hours later, not much progress had been made in safely ending the standoff. That’s when the officers called for some nontraditional assistance. After the man’s family brought his cat to the scene, officers were able to use the orange tabby kitten to calm him and coax him off the ledge. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, SFPD Spokesman Albie Esparza noted, “Never underestimate the power of the love between people and their pets.” Praising officers for thinking outside the box, Esparza said, “I don’t remember ever using a cat before, but it worked.” Officers brought the cat to the car for quick visit with the handcuffed suspect before taking the man to jail.
7. Tommy dials 911
Gary Rosheisen adopted Tommy, an orange-and-tan striped cat, hoping that the feline would help his health by lowering his blood pressure. Indeed, studies suggest that cats lower stress, blood pressure, and potentially fatal heart attacks in their human companions. However, Tommy’s contribution to Rosheisen’s health came in a more unexpected form.
In December of 2005, Rosheisen, who suffers from osteoporosis and mini-strokes, fell out of his wheelchair, and was unable to get up. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing his medical alert necklace or in range of a cord that he can pull to make an emergency call. What he did have to get him through this dire situation, however, was Tommy. The cat somehow hit the speed dial button on the phone programmed to contact 911. Dispatchers received the call, but no one was on the line. Police attempted to return the call, and when no one picked up, sent officers out to investigate. When police arrived, they found Tommy sitting next to the phone, as well as his stricken owner. Rosheisen, who calls Tommy, “my hero” said he had previously attempted to teach the cat how to hit the button in an emergency, but, as is the case for many who have tried to train their cats, he was uncertain until that day whether the lesson had been effective.
6. Major Tom saves owner from sinking yacht
Cats have a long history with boats, having long been brought aboard ship to eliminate vermin, keep sailors company, and even to serve as good luck talismans. However, Major Tom, a black and white cat who lived aboard a yacht named the Osprey with his owner, Australian Grant MacDonald, proved to be far more than just a lucky charm for his human companion.
In September of 2015, the Osprey, positioned about 40 miles off the Western Australian coast, began taking on water. MacDonald, who was asleep, would likely have remained unaware of the danger, except that Major Tom woke him up at 5:00 am with repeated head-butting. Unlike many cats, however, Major Tom, wasn’t just alerting his person that it was time for cat breakfast to be served, but rather that they were both in danger. After getting up, MacDonald quickly realized that the boat was flooded, and made the decision to abandon ship, exiting to a life raft with only enough time to grab just one piece of precious cargo off the boat—Major Tom. Hours later, the two were rescued up by a Chinese merchant vessel and, after MacDonald was treated at a hospital, man and cat were happily reunited. Because the Osprey was a total loss, MacDonald, who credits his cat with saving both of their lives, noted that both he and Major Tom would have to adjust to landlubber life together.
5. Baby, the feline fire detector
Thirteen-year old Baby, a tabby and white housecat, was generally a pretty aloof and timid cat, but when the lives of her human family were on the line, she developed the personality of a lion. Working furiously to prepare their house for the impending arrival of their twins, Josh Ornberg and Letitia Kovalsky fell asleep on the couch of their suburban Chicago home on a Sunday night in January 2010. When a fire began in a back bedroom, the couple remained conked out, oblivious to the danger around them, as smoke filled the home.
When Josh woke up, it was because he was startled by Baby’s uncharacteristic behavior. Never a lap cat, Baby started jumping repeatedly on Josh’s lap, eventually waking him and alerting him to the danger. Ornberg tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but quickly realized the blaze was well beyond his capability and called 911. Baby, followed by the couple and the family’s dog, Blackjack, rushed out of the house to safety. Ornberg calls Baby a hero, while acknowledging that his rescue at the hands… errrr… paws of a feline senior citizen was, “kind of embarrassing.” Baby, who disappeared for a few days after the fire, was eventually lured back to her family with some tuna, was rewarded with extra treats for her lifesaving fire detection service.
4. Fidge detects a potentially deadly case of cancer
Housepets have a much better sense of smell than their human family members—dogs have a sense of smell more than 50 times stronger and cats more than 15 times stronger than humans. This property has led some to study the potential for dogs to “sniff out” human cancers, with some promising early findings.
However, whatever the research eventually says, Wendy Humphreys, a 52-year old British woman, is convinced her kitten Fidge saved her life by detecting her breast cancer. Just a few weeks after Fidge, a black and white cat, was adopted by Wendy and David Humphreys when she was 8 weeks old, she began acting strangely. The kitten began repeatedly jumping up on Wendy’s right breast whenever Wendy sat down. After a couple weeks of this, Wendy, who felt bruised after Fidge’s repeated forays, visited her doctor, who detected a lump in her breast. The lump proved malignant. Said Wendy of Fidge in an interview with the Daily Mail, “She saved my life, definitely… I was told that if I hadn’t been diagnosed when I was, I could have died.”
3. Pudding saves his diabetic owner
Pudding, a 8-year old 21-lb orange cat had just gotten a big break. Along with his feline friend Wimsy, this gentle giant was adopted from the Humane Society when Amy Jung and her son Ethan made a spur-of-the-moment choice to bring the pair home. However, just hours after he joined his new family, Pudding repaid the favor and then some, saving the life of his new owner.
The night of Pudding’s adoption, Amy, who has Type 1 diabetes, went to bed. Shortly thereafter, she began having a diabetic seizure in her sleep. Pudding literally jumped into action, launching his girth onto Amy’s chest to try to rouse her. When that failed, he began butting and nipping her face. Amy woke up briefly and called for Ethan. When her sleeping son didn’t hear her, Pudding ran to his bedroom and pounced on him until he woke up and was able to call for help for his mom. Amy credits Pudding with saving her life. Since his heroic actions, Pudding has been trained as a therapy animal, meowing at Amy’s feet when he senses her blood sugar is low. As amazing as Pudding’s story is, he isn’t the only cat who has saved a diabetic owner– a British cat named Pippa has repeatedly saved the life of his family’s diabetic child by alerting her family to her hypoglycemic episodes.
2. Duchess warns family of python attack
As anyone who’s seen the (somewhat cruel) viral videos of cats freaking out about cucumbers can attest, cats are genetically hardwired to despise anything that remotely resembles a snake. However, when Tess Guthrie’s cat Duchess started acting weird—hissing, behaving anxiously, refusing to eat for several days–Tess didn’t suspect the presence of a snake. Instead, Tess called the vet for a consultation about Duchess, believing the cat’s uncharacteristic actions were a sign of illness. However, Tess and her two-year old daughter, Zara, who live in Lismore, Australia, were about to find out what was bothering Duchess—whose only problem was that she was unsettled about the presence of a python in the family home!
The same night she had telephoned the vet, Tess awoke in the bed she was sharing with her daughter, startled by Duchess’s aggressive and persistent hissing. Using the light from her mobile phone, Tess made a horrifying discovery—a six-foot python was coiled around the arm of her sleeping toddler! Thanks to Duchess sounding the alarm, Tess was able to free Zara from the snake. Zara suffered a few (non-toxic) bites, but was otherwise unharmed. Duchess was spared the trip to the vet once the reptilian reason for her hysteria was uncovered.
1. Homer, the blind “wonder cat” who stopped an intruder in his tracks
Homer, a skinny black cat, did not have an auspicious start in life. His journey began on the streets of Miami, wandering alone as a tiny kitten with a severe eye infection. When he was brought to vet Patricia Khuly at just two weeks old, the Good Samaritans who dropped him off thought the kindest thing was probably to put the cat to sleep. But Dr. Khuly made a different decision, one that would allow Homer’s story to later inspire millions, opting to remove the cat’s eyes to save his life, in the hopes that some kind adopter would eventually take a chance on the tiny blind kitten.
Gwen Cooper was that rescuer, quickly enchanted by the feline she named Homer, after the Greek poet, who was also blind. Three years after Gwen welcomed Homer into her heart and her home, she awoke one night to the normally easy-going cat growling in her bed and an intruder in her room. Just as she had once saved him, Homer now did the same, launching his tiny body at the invading man, biting and scratching viciously, until the man fled. Gwen would later write a bestselling book, Homer’s Odyssey, and a sequel, to share her cat’s amazing story. Homer’s inspiring tale prompted more adoptions of blind cats. One rescue advocate sums up Homer’s amazing impact in his 16 years of life, saying in a NY Times interview, “He’s helped save countless lives.”