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Up close and purr-sonal with the winners of the National Cat Awards 2019

cat in a crown 
The UK’s finest felines were celebrated at the National Cat Awards 2019 in London last week for bravery and loyalty  Credit: Getty Images 

The UK’s finest felines were celebrated at the National Cat Awards 2019 in London last week. Find out which prized pet scooped the top accolade  

Cats have become the UK’s most popular pet: the latest PAW report from the PDSA found that 25% of UK adults have a cat, with an estimated population of 11.1 million pet cats, while 24% of the UK adult population have a dog, with an estimated population of 8.9 million pet dogs. 

Last week, the growing popularity of cats was celebrated at Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, organised by the UK’s largest cat charity and sponsored by PURINA®. This event has become an annual celebration of real-life stories of heroism, loyalty and companionship in the feline world.

Cats can be unlikely and unassuming heroes

Heroism? Loyalty? Companionship? To many non-cat lovers, these qualities are not the first that come to mind when thinking about cats. Instead words like independence, selfishness, aloofness are often used when discussing cats. So what sort of stories were celebrated last week and what type of cats were acknowledged as heroes?

Overall winner: the top cat that changed the life of his owner

 “Cats don’t judge, they accept people the way they are – and that really is priceless.” Credit: Cats Protection 

The overall winner, Jeffree, a yellow-eyed jet-black cat, had a genuinely life-changing effect on Finn Hackeson, a fourteen year old boy with Asperger syndrome,  who had become depressed and withdrawn following the sudden death of his father in June 2018. Finn’s mother Gayle was struggling to help her son, who was finding it difficult to communicate with anyone. He seemed to be in a downwards spiral of despair. Her idea of adopting a cat was based on her own experience of animals. In her words:  “Cats don’t judge, they don’t rush you to talk about your feelings and they accept people the way they are – and that really is priceless.”

As soon as Finn met Jeffree, he began to engage more with the world: cat and boy were instantly inseparable, and Finn’s outlook on life changed completely. He began to smile again, and to have fun: this small black cat was entirely responsible for a remarkable improvement in Finn.

National Cat Awards category winners

Hero cat

Jack, hero cat of the year  Credit: Cats Protection 

Jack, another black cat, had a remarkable ability to raise the alarm when his owner Marcia McSwegan, who suffers from global autonomic dysfunction, was about to suffer seizures. Jack has now sadly passed away.

Most Caring Cat

Sparky, winner of most caring cat  Credit: Cats Protection 

Sparky, a tortoiseshell cat, provided constant support to his owner Kirsty Ayre after she suffered a series of traumatic events, losing both her parents, and then losing her vision in one eye after a random attack.

Outstanding Rescue Cat

Nala, winner of the outstanding rescue cat award Credit: Cats Protection

Nala, a tabby and white cat, became a close friend and companion to terminally ill teenager, Charlotte Eades, who later died from brain cancer. Nala continues to support Charlotte’s bereaved family with her steady, relaxed companionship. 

The PURINA® Better Together Award

Jethro, the winner of the Purina award  Credit: Cats Protection

This award focuses on the symbiotic relationship between cats and humans, and the winner was a prime example. Jethro - the third black cat to win an award this year - helped his owner Abigail Knight to overcome serious health issues, and in turn, he was helped by when he developed feline diabetes and a brain abscess.

Human heroes also celebrated at National Cat Awards

The final award of the evening went to the most inspiring team of Cats Protection volunteers: the Star Team award went to the Frome branch, who are working together with Bath College to build new facilities for local cats in need, and who involve students from Animal Care courses in their day-to-day care. Volunteers are at the heart of Cats Protection, which is the UK’s biggest cat only organisation, helping cats across the country in many ways. 

The charity has three main ways of helping cats, through its network of over 11000 volunteers,  250 volunteer-run branches and over thirty centres:

Homing 

Finding good homes for cats in need: last year, loving homes were found for 41000 cats across the UK.

Neutering 

Supporting and encouraging the neutering of cats: last year, Cats Protection helped to neuter 143,000 cats, making it the largest single cat neutering group in the world. 

Information

Cats are much misunderstood by those who love them as much as by those who dislike them. Cats Protection works hard to dispel myths about cats,  improving people’s understanding of cats and sending out clear messages about how to care for them properly.

Cats are modest creatures, sensitive to noise and attention, so they didn’t attend the National Cat Awards in person, but their stories of heroism and companionship were recorded in short videos filmed in private. See for yourself how much of a difference cats can make to people, and if you, in return, want to help cats, talk to Cats Protection. More volunteers and supporters are always needed.

Pet Subjects by Peter Wedderburn is published by Aurum Press (£12.99). To order a copy  visit books.telegraph.co.uk