A line-up of fabulous felines has been announced as finalists in this year’s National Cat Awards, the UK’s celebration of everything we love about cats.
From fun-loving felines who help children face major challenges, to caring cats who provide comfort in times of need, the marvellous moggies are all in the running to be named Cats Protection’s National Cat of the Year 2021.
This year’s top cat will follow in the pawprints of previous winner Jeffree, a life-changing moggy from Coventry who helped teenager Finn Hackeson, who has Asperger syndrome, cope with the death of his father.
The finalists in this year’s Awards include:
- Paddy, the ginger puss who spends his days comforting mourners at a burial ground before returning each evening to his owners.
- Minty, a three-legged cat who is a best friend to a six-year-old boy with severe learning difficulties and a range of medical conditions.
- Bruno, who was found abandoned in a cardboard box by a grieving couple and helped them cope with pain of losing their new-born daughter.
Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, organised by the UK’s largest cat charity and sponsored by Purina, is normally an annual celebration of cats. With last year’s event postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s awards will be hosted online.
Winners in three categories will be selected by celebrity judges – comedian Bob Mortimer, funnyman Russell Kane and actress Tuppence Middleton, while the fourth category will be announced by entrepreneur Deborah Meaden following a public vote.
After category winners are announced online on Thursday 5 August, an overall winner will be selected as National Cat of the Year by a celebrity panel and announced on Thursday 12 August.
Awards organiser Kate Bunting said: “Now more than ever, the nation’s pet cats play a hugely important role in the lives of their owners – whether it’s providing a soothing presence in worrying times, companionship for people living or working alone, or a fun and caring playmate for children. We are absolutely delighted to be returning with the National Cat Awards this year so we can share some of these inspirational, heart-warming and amazing stories from the cat world.”
Winners in four categories – Most Caring Cat, Furr-ever Friends, Outstanding Rescue Cat and Purina Better Together – will receive a trophy, a £100 pet store voucher, a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine and a three months’ supply of Purina cat food.
Calum Macrae, Regional Director UK & Ireland at Purina, said: “The National Cat Awards is a wonderful celebration of everything we love about cats, in particular shining a spotlight on the incredible bond that can exist between pets and owners. At Purina, we’re passionate about enriching the lives of pets and the people who love them, so we’re thrilled to support the National Cat Awards once again this year.
“All the finalists are truly inspiring and go to show the hugely positive impact cats can have on people’s lives, for all sorts of reasons. It’s no wonder that cats have earned a special place in our hearts and homes.
For a full list of category finalists, please see below.
Doris – Newport, Wales
Brave eight-year-old Delilah has faced more challenges in her short life than most people will in their entire lives. Diagnosed with leukaemia in January 2018, little Delilah has endured two-and-a-half years of gruelling chemotherapy, fought off several debilitating infections and spent large chunks of time in hospital. Throughout it all, there’s been one friend who has kept Delilah’s spirits up – Doris. When the pain was unbearable, and the emotional toll of losing her hair or missing out on friends’ birthday parties was too much, it was Doris who helped brighten Delilah’s days. Always happy to join in a teddy bear’s tea party or to cuddle up for a story, Doris has brought fun and laughter into Delilah’s life when she couldn’t leave the house. And it’s not just Delilah that Doris has helped – she’s provided comfort and companionship for older brother Dylan, 14, and helped him cope with the impact of his sister’s treatment. Over two years after her diagnosis, Delilah is close to completing her final round of treatment and is looking forward to getting back to school and leading a normal life.
Minty – Holywell, Flintshire
For six-year-old Connor Raven and mum Siobhan Cobb, everyday life can feel like a challenge. Connor has severe learning difficulties and a range of medical conditions, including ataxic cerebral palsy, which affect his physical, mental and emotional development. Fortunately, Connor has the best possible therapy at his side – his much-loved cat Minty. When the world gets too much and Connor suffers an emotional meltdown, Minty is always first on the scene, rubbing his face on Connor’s hand and helping to rapidly calm him. Minty helps Connor cope with every aspect of daily life – from keeping him settled at meal-times to providing a soothing presence at bedtime. Remarkably, Minty – who only has three legs after being hit by a car – even helped Connor learn to climb the stairs. Mum Siobhan explains: “Minty would spend hours jumping one step at a time, stopping to allow Connor to catch up. It was incredible to witness him patiently encourage Connor to achieve something he found so difficult. Connor can be very loud, and his medical conditions mean he’s very wobbly and clumsy. Many pets would understandably keep their distance, but not Minty – when Connor is at his most in need, Minty is there like a shot.”
Simba – Colne, Lancashire
When vet practice manager Liz heard about a tiny stray kitten brought in with horrific injuries, she didn’t hesitate to offer him a home. Having sustained a broken jaw, hip and pelvis – possibly after being hit by a car – little Simba was at was nursed back from death’s door. A week later – and coincidentally on son Ben’s Moulding’s 16th birthday – Liz took Simba home to continue his recovery. But the family’s initial joy over the new addition was cut short when Liz’s husband Paul – Ben’s stepdad – was admitted to hospital with complications following cancer treatment. As the family’s world crumbled and Liz spent each day at her husband’s bedside, teenager Ben was left at home with Simba. Over the following weeks, the tiny kitten was to become everything to Ben – something to care for, a friend during the lonely days and a ray of sunshine in moments of distress. Tragically, Paul died eight weeks later. In the darkest of days, Simba came to mean more than ever to Ben as he struggled to cope with losing his stepdad. Liz said: “Simba had a tough start in life, but has turned out to be the soppiest cat I’ve ever known. He’s so affectionate, and during the toughest of times I knew Ben was not alone as Simba was always by his side. I don’t know how we would have got through everything without Simba.” Nearly two years on, Ben is studying economics at university.
Most Caring Cat
Penelope – Salisbury, Wiltshire
Everyday life is unpredictable, painful and frightening for Zoe, 28, who suffers from a range of complex medical issues including craniocervical instability and Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. The conditions mean Zoe is barely able to hold her head up, is prone to breaking or dislocating bones and suffers terrifying seizures without warning. Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of loving puss Penelope, who senses when Zoe is about to have a seizure and raises the alarm. Zoe explained: “My seizures often come at night when I’m in bed and can often leave me with injuries. But Penelope sleeps with me, and when a seizure is about to start she will run and attract my mum’s attention so she can come and help me. She’s not really a vocal cat at any other time, the only time she meows is to get mum mum’s attention.” After a seizure, Zoe can be left feeling weak and traumatised, but Penelope will sit with her to provide a comforting presence while she recovers.
Paddy – Wirral, Cheshire
Comforting grieving families on one of the most difficult days of their lives is all in a day’s work for Paddy. For the past few years, the 10-year-old puss has been making daily trips to the Co-op Funeralcare’s Mayfields Remembrance Park, a short walk from his home. Once there, Paddy spends his days providing a soothing presence to mourners before returning home to his owners each evening. If requested by grieving relatives, Paddy will attend services – often settling on the front row – or sit alongside families as they pay their final respects outdoors, always on hand with a comforting purr. Owner Stuart explained: “The burial ground is about a five-minute walk, and Paddy will head off there most days after his breakfast. He’s a very calm and gentle cat, and we’ve heard lovely stories of how him being there has helped people cope during a difficult day. He’s very committed to his day job, and sometimes if it’s 6pm and he’s not home I will jump in the car and drive down to the burial ground. I open the car door and call his name and he’ll come running and jump in, ready to go home for his tea.”
Weasley and Jinx – St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
For staff at Southdowns Nursing Home, brother-and-sister duo Weasley and Jinx are part of the team. For residents, they’re part of the family. The loving pair arrived at the home in the summer of 2019 and since then have gone onto have a huge effect of the lives of residents at the home, which cares for people with a variety of physical and/or mental health needs, including dementia. From curling up on laps for a comforting cuddle to entertaining all with their playful antics, the cats are part of daily life. Having the cats around has helped bring back happy memories for some residents, while others with communication difficulties may speak only to talk about their feline friends. But it’s not just the good days where the cats are there with a helping paw. Staff have been touched to notice how Jinx seems to sense when a resident may be nearing the end of life, choosing to stay by their side during their final hours. Associate Practitioner Darren Fouracre said “It’s incredibly moving and exceptionally comforting. The cats are there in the good times and bad, always bringing a smile to everyone. They are loved by residents and staff alike, and we would not be without them.”
Purina Better Together
Boris – Blackheath, London
Boris had always been a much-loved pet for Alex Tullis and his daughter Caroline. But when Alex, 80, suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2015, it was Boris that kept him going. Desperately ill in intensive care, Alex would talk about Boris, and it became clear to nurses that he was determined to overcome the challenges to return home. After three months in hospital, and although still severely disabled, Alex was overjoyed to be discharged and reunited with Boris. But just four months later, the family were dealt another blow when Boris suffered a massive head injury after being hit by a car. Clinging to life, Alex and Caroline knew they had to give Boris a chance, and he received specialist veterinary treatment. Although he lost an eye and developed epilepsy, Boris made a good recovery and was soon back home with Alex and Caroline. Caroline said: “Dad is now confined to bed, and Boris is wonderful company for him. He provides so much comfort and companionship and brings great joy into Dad’s life. Boris has always been there for Dad, so when he was in need we didn’t hesitate to give him all the care he needed to get better. They make a great pair, and it’s lovely to see them together.”
Bruno – Leeds, West Yorkshire
Caroline and Damon Green were going through the most unbearable time of their lives after their baby daughter Freyja died at just five-days-old, following complications at birth. As the couple began the painful task of learning to live with their grief, they found hope in the most unexpected of places – a cardboard box dumped near their home, containing four tiny kittens. Taking the kittens home, the couple nursed them to full health, a process which in turn helped them cope with the pain of losing their daughter. Caroline, 32, said: “We had a lot of love to give, and the kittens gave us something to focus on and care for. Looking back now, they were just what we needed to help us cope. Caring for them took the edge off the pain and brought a ray of light into some very hard days.” When the kittens were old enough, the couple rehomed three of them but decided to keep Bruno. Caroline added: “Bruno was the one that really struggled with confidence and was very afraid. We had to do lots of work to socialise him and as a result I got very close to him. When the time came, I knew I couldn’t be parted with him, so we kept him.”
Dixie – Mallorca, Spain
When Erin found an abandoned cat on the streets, she knew she couldn’t turn her back. Naming him Dixie, Erin gave him a home, plenty of TLC and a second chance in life. Soon after, and as Dixie settled in, Erin was overjoyed to find she was pregnant. But tragically, nearly halfway into the pregnancy, she lost her baby. The loss was devastating, and with countless friends and family members welcoming new babies, Erin began to feel increasingly alone in her grief. Falling into depression, Erin struggled to see a future and began shutting herself away. A move to Scotland was meant to be a fresh start, but instead became more isolating. Some time after moving, Dixie was to suffer terrible injuries in a suspected road accident and needed to have a leg amputated. Seeing her beloved pet in such pain, Erin suddenly found a new purpose in life – helping Dixie recover and adjust to life on three legs. She said: “It was a horrible time, of course, but it made me realise that throughout all the tough times, Dixie had been there for me. I knew it was my turn to be there for him. It was enough to make me seek help to pull me out of my depression, and slowly we began to heal together.”
Outstanding Rescue Cat
Mikey – Southend-on-Sea, Hampshire
Jessica’s whole world crumbled around her in July 2017 when her first child, a baby boy, was stillborn. With partner Connor required to return to his Army posting shortly after, Jessica began to shut herself off from family and friends. While the grief was unbearable, Jessica was also suffering physically and needed hospital treatment for high blood pressure. Out of the blue, a friend telephoned and mentioned a former stray cat in need of a home. Jessica didn’t hesitate, and took Mikey in. Life on the streets had been hard for Mikey and he had needed an eye removed after developing a painful abscess. Immediately, Jessica and Mikey formed a close bond, and as Jessica helped to nurse Mikey back to full strength, he began to help ease the pain of grief. With Mikey by her side to care for, the darkness began to lift and Jessica started to venture out of the house. Jessica’s counsellor noticed how much calmer and more able to speak she’d become, helping her get more out of the sessions. Four years on, and while her first son will always be loved and remembered, Jessica and Connor now have another addition to their family – a son named Jenson.
Nala – Seaham, County Durham
Teenager Olivia Usher was just 17 when she hit rock bottom. Years of mental health issues had culminated in a diagnosis of psychosis, with Olivia tormented by hallucinations and negative thoughts. The traumatic symptoms became unbearable and during her lowest point, Olivia attempted to take her life. Desperate to help, a friend suggested adopting a pet, prompting Olivia and her dad to take a trip to a local rescue centre. There she met Nala, an eight-month-old kitten who had been abandoned on the streets. The bond was immediate, and Olivia couldn’t hold back the tears as she realised she’d met her best friend. Within days of Nala’s arrival, Olivia began to take the first steps towards recovery. Intuitive Nala would begin to sense when Olivia was suffering a psychotic episode – when she may become consumed with negative thoughts and ideas – and help pull her back to reality. Olivia explained: “When I have an episode, I lose grip of what’s real, but Nala will come and nuzzle up to me. It helps bring me back and remind me what’s real. The feel of her fur and the sound of her purr helps to calm me and bring me back.” Now three years on, Olivia has gone from strength to strength and is now studying computer science at university.
Tobi – Shanklin, Isle of Wight
When tiny kitten Tobi came into Misha’s life when she was 10-years-old, he was the glimmer of hope she needed. During a traumatic childhood, Misha suffered serious mental health issues, attempted suicide and was taken into foster care at 15. Throughout it all, it was Tobi who became her rock – a friend she could always depend on no matter how difficult life was. Having insisted on keeping Tobi in foster care, Misha clung to her faithful friend for companionship and comfort, helping to heal her emotional scars. With Tobi by her side, Misha went from strength to strength, and the pair eventually moved into a home of their own. Now 26, Misha continues to credit Tobi with turning her life around and is helping him cope with his own challenges after he was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2019. She said: “I’m now an adult and to this day Tobi has been my rock, best friend and soul mate because I know for sure I would never have made it this far without him. Now Tobi has been diagnosed with kidney disease, it’s my turn to be strong for him, and it breaks my heart. Every Christmas and birthday are a blessing and I am grateful every day for the love, friendship and security he has given me for most of my life. He gave me the unconditional love, comfort and affection that I needed as a little girl.”