A pair of rescue cats who spend their days comforting patients, families and staff at a hospice have been named joint National Cat of the Year 2022.
Jasper and Willow beat hundreds of other entries to be named overall winners in the nation’s biggest celebration of pet cats, organised by Cats Protection and held at London’s Savoy Hotel on Thursday 4 August.
The pair were honoured in recognition of the role they play at St Peter & St James Hospice in Haywards Heath, Sussex, where they have lived since they were adopted from Cats Protection in 2018.
Front of house manager at the hospice Jackie Manville, said: “We are over the moon that Jasper and Willow have been celebrated for the important role they play at the hospice. Since they’ve been with us, they’ve bought comfort to so many people, whether it’s patients, family and friends, or staff. Jasper and Willow really go to show how special rescue cats are, and we’re so proud of them both.”
Jasper and Willow first won the Outstanding Rescue Cat category – which celebrates cats adopted from animal charities – before being selected as overall joint National Cat of the Year by a panel of celebrity judges which included Manchester City footballer and England Lioness Ellen White, actress Gaynor Faye, TV and radio broadcaster Riyadh Khalaf, BBC weather presenter Elizabeth Rizzini and drag artist Ginny Lemon.
As the first ever joint winners of the title, the feline pair will share a trophy and a prize package which includes a £200 pet store voucher. They follow in the paw prints of last year’s winner Minty, a three-legged cat from Holywell, Wales, who helped six-year-old Connor Raven cope with severe learning difficulties and medical conditions.
Celebrity judge and Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden had sent Jasper and Willow on their way to victory after she chose them as winners of the Outstanding Rescue Cat Category. She said: “It’s amazing to see how two rescue cats are now so happy and comfortable in their role of comforting others who are going through very difficult times. If ever cats can show empathy, these two do.”
Actress Gaynor Faye, who was on the panel to select the overall winner, said: “I chose Jasper and Willow because of how much comfort and support they bring to people at the end of their life when it may be all they’ve got, and because there’s two of them. I have a brother and sister cat and know how much comfort they bring to me and also to each other.”
Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards organiser Cat Jarvis said: “No-one can fail to be moved by how much solace Jasper and Willow bring to patients, family and staff at the hospice. They are fantastic ambassadors for rescue cats, perfectly highlighting how friendly, caring and gentle they can be when they are given a second chance in life.”
Other category winners were:
- Misty – Winner of the Most Caring Cat category, who helped a teenager cope after an illness left her unable to walk for two years.
- Marley – Winner of the Cat Colleagues category, who is part of the team at a day centre for adults with learning disabilities.
- Chicken – Winner of the Furr-ever Friends category, who shares an incredible bond with an 11-year-old autistic boy who suffers with anxiety.
Cats Protection, the UK’s leading feline welfare charity, has helped an average of 166,000 cats and kittens a year over the last five years through its national network which includes around 210 volunteer-run branches and 34 centres.