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 2022.
This year’s top cat will follow in the pawprints of previous winner Minty, a three-legged cat from Holywell, Wales, who helped six-year-old Connor Raven cope with severe learning difficulties and medical conditions.
The finalists in this year’s Awards include:
- Jasper and Willow: The brother-and-sister duo who spend their days bringing comfort to patients, staff and visitors at a hospice.
- Archie: The loving ‘dialysis buddy’ who keeps his kidney patient owner company during the many hours she’s connected to a life-saving machine.
- Chicken: Intuitive moggy Chicken, who shares an incredible bond with an 11-year-old boy who has autism and suffers with anxiety.
Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, organised by the UK’s largest cat charity, recognises the incredible bond between cats and people. The four categories include Cat Colleagues, sponsored by Feliway, which will be voted for by members of the public via a vote on the Cats Protection’s website (www.cats.org.uk) which will take place between 10-13 June. Other category winners will be selected and presented by celebrity judges including entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, Lioness Ellen White, and comedian Bob Mortimer.
An overall winner will be selected as National Cat of the Year by a celebrity panel, including actress Gaynor Faye, drag artist Ginny Lemon, Dancing on Ice star Frankie Seaman and ex-England footballer David Seaman MBE, and will be announced on Thursday 4 August at an awards ceremony at The Savoy in London.
Cat-loving England and Manchester City footballer Ellen White is one of the celebrities supporting this year’s event. She said: “Like millions of other people, I think cats are brilliant, so I jumped at the chance of being involved in this year’s National Cat Awards. The awards are all about celebrating everything we love about cats – whether it’s their entertaining antics or the comfort and companionship they bring to so many people. I’m really looking forward to helping to showcase some of the UK’s most amazing cats and highlighting what wonderful pets cats can be.”
Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards organiser Kate Bunting said: “Cats make incredible pets for all sorts of homes, and this year’s finalists really go to show how there is a cat for everyone. Whether it’s being a friend to children who may face extra challenges in life, providing companionship to those who may otherwise be alone or bringing a calming presence on the workplace, cats can transform people’s lives for the better. We hope this year’s National Cat Awards will help more people see the many benefits of cat ownership and consider adopting a cat.”
Winners in each of the four categories – Most Caring Cat, Furr-ever Friends, Outstanding Rescue Cat and Cat Colleagues – will each win a prize package of a trophy, a £200 pet store voucher and a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine. The winner of National Cat of the Year will also receive an additional overall winning trophy.
Full List of Finalists in Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2022 are:
Dylan, of Southampton, Hampshire.
Every day, Dylan follows owner Rebecca Welch to her garden office where she works as a specialist mentor for university students with challenges such as ADHD or depression. Opening up can be hard for some students, but that’s where Dylan comes in. Whether he’s snoozing, playing or purring, Dylan’s onscreen antics help students feel more relaxed and get more from their sessions with Rebecca. Rebecca said: “Since the start of the pandemic, all my work has been online with Dylan normally by my side. Dylan often makes an appearance during the sessions, and the students are always delighted to see him. If they’re upset, missing home and their own pets or struggling in other areas, seeing Dylan and chatting about him can be a real comfort. It can break the ice, and help students feel more relaxed and able to talk about issues they need help with. When the pandemic started, many students felt particularly isolated, and seeing Dylan online helped the sessions seem less formal. Dylan loves to bring me sticks he finds in the garden, or curl up on the keyboard, and his antics always help everyone feel more relaxed. Dylan has also been a tremendous companion for me, particularly since the start of the pandemic. I have an auto-immune illness so was shielding as well as getting to grips with homeworking and having him by my side really helped me feel less isolated.”
Marley, of Chichester, West Sussex
The Apuldram Centre is a special place helping adults with learning difficulties. No matter what is going on, ultra-friendly Marley is bound to be involved. Marley is a big part of life at the centre, where he spends his days attending staff meetings, joining in activities with clients, and chasing birds off the vegetable patch. Activity Support Worker Richard Manning said: “We have lots of activities for people who come to the day centre, such as arts and crafts, gardening and dance – and Marley gets stuck into all of them. He loves to be around people, so on a typical day he’ll try and get round to see as many clients as possible and get involved in all the activities. Our clients love to see Marley and they always go away happy after spending some time with him. He makes them laugh with his funny antics, but also has a calming effect if people are having a bad day. He’s very popular with the staff too, always helping with whatever is going on. During lockdown, with fewer staff on site, it was very quiet. For the staff remaining, having Marley around was much-needed company and comfort during a difficult time.”
Milo, of Matlock, Derbyshire
At the Presentation Sisters Care Centre where he lives, Milo really is one of the team. Each day, he provides comfort to residents who love to chat, play and cuddle with him. Always happy to take a break with staff, Milo also loves to meet new visitors, helping make the care home a welcoming, friendly environment for everyone. Care assistant Katie Thornley said: “Milo is the most relaxed and calming cat, always happy to stop for a fuss and a cuddle. He brings so much comfort to staff, visitors and residents and is a big part of daily life. Because he’s so gentle, he makes a wonderful pet, and many of our residents love to have him visit them in their rooms. Stroking and chatting to Milo brings them so much pleasure, particularly those who are less mobile or have memory loss. Milo brings a really homely feel wherever he goes, and that’s the environment we want for our residents. He is something we can all care for and talk about together, and we’ve seen a really positive effect from having him around.”
Chicken, of Thatcham, Berkshire
Chicken shares an incredible bond with Elliot Abery, 11, who has autism and suffers with anxiety. When Elliot is facing stressful times, just talking about his faithful feline friend is enough to help bring calm. And when Elliot needs quiet time but doesn’t want to be alone, Chicken is by his side for company and a soothing purr. Mum Jenny Abery, 45, explained: “Elliot and Chicken share a special bond which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They are normally together, whether it’s cuddling under blankets or playing games, and their friendship is a huge source of comfort to Elliot. Elliot talks about Chicken a lot, and she’s incredibly important to him. When he’s had a tough day or is struggling with anxiety, talking about Chicken has a calming effect on him. We joke about how lazy she can be, or what she may have been up to while he’s at school, and it helps him re-focus if he’s been stressed. Taking care of Chicken is very important to Elliot, he always wants to make sure she’s happy. She just dotes on him and is never far from Elliot. Sometimes Elliot needs quiet time, but he may not necessarily want to be alone. Having Chicken by his side means there’s someone there who doesn’t have any expectations of him – he can just sit and be himself with Chicken. Chicken and Elliot are just brilliant together and I really hope their story will help highlight how incredible cats can be for people with autism.”
Max, of Harrogate, Yorkshire.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Swift, who has a chromosome disorder, autism, epilepsy and learning difficulties, shares an incredible bond with her best friend Max. Not only is he a playmate and companion, Max even raises the alarm when Jessica has a seizure. And Jessica takes care of Max by helping him take his daily heart medication. Whatever comes their way, Max and Jessica face it together. Mum Zoe Curtis explained: “Max and Jessica are inseparable, and they get so much enjoyment from each other’s company. Whenever Jessica has been in hospital, Max is just not himself, he paces around and then just jumps into her arms as soon as she gets home. Jessica can sometimes have seizures in the night, and we have an alarm to let us know when this is happening. But Max is often already on the case, running to us to let us know we need to come and help Jessica. After she’s had a seizure, he’ll cuddle up close to her, which is such a comfort for her. Max has his own health problems, as he has a heart condition which needs daily medication. Jessica will hold him while I give him his tablet – there’s no one else he’ll allow to do that. Jessica will have little tea parties for her toys, and Max always joins in. The love they have for each other is clear for everyone to see. In Max, Jessica has a best friend and a constant companion.”
Teddy, of Braunston, near Daventry, Northamptonshire.
Thirteen-year-old Harry, who has autism and ADHD, struggles with anxiety, making it hard to leave the house or attend school. But thanks to Teddy, Harry doesn’t have to face his challenges alone. Always there to share a game, snuggle up for a snooze or simply for company and support, Teddy helps Harry cope with everyday life. Mum Lucy Batchelor explained: “The combination of moving up to secondary school and lockdowns have been very hard for Harry and as a result he is not able to attend school at the moment. It means life can be quite lonely for him, and he struggles a lot with anxiety when leaving the house. Harry was very serious about wanting a kitten and started doing extra chores and odd jobs around the house to earn the money to buy things like litter trays and scratching posts. And in the summer of last year, we got Teddy, who has been an incredible support and friend to Harry ever since. Teddy has a wonderful calming influence. Having ADHD means Harry can be loud and energetic, but Teddy helps him to calm down, and is so trusting where other cats might be scared. If Harry gets upset or angry Teddy helps him to settle. They are inseparable – wherever Harry is, Teddy is never far behind. They clearly adore each other and taking care of Teddy has been great for Harry’s confidence. Teddy has been a distraction from the bad things, and a friend to share fun times with. Harry says that Teddy just makes him happy, and that’s what makes Teddy so special to our family.”
Most Caring Cat
Archie, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
For 23 years kidney patient Maddy Warren has needed life-saving dialysis to remove deadly toxins from her body. Five times a week, she connects to a machine for up to seven hours – all under the close watch of her dialysis buddy, Archie. Archie knows when Maddy needs space to insert needles, before hopping up for a cuddle and to keep her company in the long hours ahead. Maddy said: “I’m very positive about my dialysis and feel lucky it keeps me alive, but there’s no denying it is a burden too. Having Archie around makes it so much better for me – he’ll cuddle up close to me and arrange himself around the blood tubes connected to the needles. I do my dialysis at night and even though the machine is noisy and often sounds various alarms and bleeps, he chooses to stay with me throughout. It’s a comfort to not be alone, and he somehow manages to balance being incredibly funny with bringing a sense of calm. It’s just what I need during those long hours. What’s remarkable is that Archie seems to instinctively know when I’m doing the more complex parts of dialysis – the connecting and disconnecting, which needs to be very sterile. When I’m doing this, he’ll move away and give me space, and as soon as everything in in place, he’ll be over for a cuddle. He really is the most incredible dialysis buddy and I’m so grateful to have him.”
Misty, of Poole, Dorset
Coral Jones was just 14 when she developed costochondritis, a painful condition that left her bedridden and unable to walk. But throughout it all, she had a loyal friend by her side for comfort and cuddles – Misty. And when Coral eventually learned to walk again, it was Misty who would cheer her on – appearing whenever she heard the sound of Coral’s crutches on the ground. Six years on, and Coral – now aged 22 -, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her ordeal, but Misty is there to calm her. Coral says: “I was bedridden with very little mobility for about two years, which was incredibly hard. I was in pain, lonely and was basically watching my body waste away before my eyes. My one glimmer of hope was Misty, who was with me every day. She’d sit with me and was a friend when I didn’t have any others. When I was in a wheelchair, I sometimes felt invisible to everyone apart from Misty – she was always there for me. Eventually I was able to start walking on crutches, but it was exhausting and a long road to recovery. When I came home from school, Misty would hear the banging of my crutches and come rushing out to meet me up the road – it was the best part of the day, and it was like she was cheering me on. As well as the illness, I had lots of painful procedures and still have traumatic flashbacks where I collapse. When this happens, it’s Misty that brings me round – she headbutts me, cuddles up next to me and stays with me. It works every time and helps calm me and brings me out of my trauma attack.”
Spuds, of Bessbrook, County Armagh
Former stray Spuds may have saved the lives of six people – including a newborn baby – when he raised the alarm as deadly smoke engulfed the family home. Looking forward to a special day, Brendan Curran and wife Jane had popped the turkey in the oven to cook overnight on Christmas Eve before turning into bed. With other family members also asleep – including Brendan’s two-week-old grandson – they were oblivious to the potential disaster unfolding downstairs as the kitchen filled with smoke. Fortunately, Spuds was there to raise the alarm – repeatedly leaping onto Brendan’s chest to wake him before leading him to the kitchen. Brendan explained: “Spuds is not an affectionate cat, he is a former stray and although he likes to be part of the family, he’s not touchy-feely. So, when he jumped on my chest as I slept, it was out of character. I took him downstairs, a bit annoyed that he’d woken me, and when I opened the kitchen door there was a wall of smoke. I couldn’t see the walls. The fat from the turkey had been dripping in the oven, making it exceptionally hot and creating plumes of smoke. The smoke alarms hadn’t gone off, and I genuinely think if Spuds hadn’t raised the alarm things could have been very different.”
Outstanding Rescue Cat
Jasper and Willow, of Haywards Heath, Sussex
Brother-and-sister duo Jasper and Willow are much-valued members of the team at St Peter & St James Hospice. The two cats spend their days visiting patients receiving end of life care, helping families and friends feel at ease, and bringing a ray of sunshine to staff on difficult days. Since arriving in 2018, the pair have brought comfort to countless people at the hospice. Front of house manager for St Peter & St James Hospice Jackie Manville explained: “Jasper and Willow have had a hugely positive effect on everyday life at the hospice and are much valued members of the team. They spend a lot of time with patients and their families and friends, bringing comfort to those at the end of life and to those who are grieving. A lot of time is spent sitting and watching and having our cats to stroke really helps, making the hospice more homely. Jasper in particular seems to intuitively know when patients are having a difficult day, or if they are in need of company. He’ll hop onto the bed and just sit quietly, purring away. It’s enough to raise a smile and helps people relax when they’re feeling tense and worried. For the staff too, having, Jasper and Willow around is wonderful. On a hard day, just walking around the corner and seeing them is enough to give you a lift. During the pandemic, their constant presence was a huge comfort to everyone in difficult times.”
Millie, of Worle, Somerset
Jennifer Voisey was 26 when she hit rock bottom and felt suicidal. But something pulled her back – Millie. Thinking of her beloved cat inspired Jennifer to seek urgent medical help, and throughout her recovery, Millie was at her side. Despite suffering fibromyalgia things are now better for Jennifer, and on the bad days, Millie is still there for comfort and support. She said: “Things were very bad, and one day reached the point where I really couldn’t see a future – I was rock bottom and feeling suicidal. One thing kept going through my mind – how would Millie be if I wasn’t around? I just couldn’t bear the thought of what may become of her without me – she was my cat and my responsibility. Soon after that, I went to the GP and that was the turning point for me. I got treatment and started doing some voluntary work. All the time I was on the road to recovery, Millie was with me every step of the way.” Six years on, and Jennifer’s life has turned around – now living with partner Oliver, she is a full-time work coach. But she says that even though things are brighter, Millie – who was adopted from Cats Protection as a kitten – still provides support during difficult days. She said: “I have fibromyalgia and my mental health will always need monitoring, so there’s definitely days when I feel down or am in pain. Millie is always there for me – she knows when I’m having a bad day and she cuddles into me. We call her Nurse Millie because she’s so caring. She’s been my light in the darkest times.”
Murdoch, of Horsham, West Sussex.
When Murdoch was adopted by Gwen and Peter Lewis, he was a bag of nerves. Through love and perseverance, the couple won him round and he became a much-loved pet. But tragedy struck when Peter died just three weeks after he was diagnosed with leukaemia. This time it was Murdoch’s turn to be the strong one. Never leaving Gwen’s side, helping her cope with comfort, companionship and entertainment. Gwen said: “Peter died very suddenly, and it was a huge shock and a lot to come to terms with. But Murdoch was there with me every day and made it easier for me to adjust. He made sure I was never alone, day or night. Murdoch is such a character, and he makes me laugh with his funny habits, like splashing around and playing with a bowl of water on the patio. He is always around for a cuddle and someone to talk to as I potter around the house. Without him I think I would have felt very lonely, but it’s hard to feel lonely with Murdoch around – he’s such a big personality.” Gwen’s daughter Jen Moore added: “Mum pours out her feelings to Murdoch and he listens, head turned towards her, taking in every word with knowing eyes. He gives her purpose and keeps her to a routine. Mum regularly tells me she does not know what she would do without him. He has eased her loneliness and made life more bearable for her. It feels like they have rescued each other, albeit seven years apart.”