All the pretty kitties: Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards at the Savoy
It was a pawsitively purrfect afternoon at London’s Savoy Hotel yesterday as celebrities and cat-lovers alike gathered to celebrate Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2012.
The belle of the ball was Jessi-Cat, who was awarded the title of National Cat of the Year 2012 as well as her prize in the Best Friends category. Accepting the award on Jessi-Cat’s behalf was her best friend Lorcan Dillon and his mother, Jayne. Seven-year-old Lorcan has Selective Mutism, a severe anxiety disorder which makes it difficult for him to speak and express himself. Having Jessi-Cat has helped ease Lorcan’s loneliness and for the first time say, “I love you”. In the words of Grumpy Old Men star Rick Wakeman, celebrity judge for the Best Friends category: “The bond between Jessi-Cat and Lorcan is incredible and it clearly has had a hugely positive impact on Lorcan’s home and school life. Jessi-Cat helps Lorcan to communicate and express emotions that ordinarily Lorcan wouldn’t be able to do.”
The awards spotlighted the companionship and bravery of hundreds of humble house cats, with submissions pouring in from around the country. These were whittled down to three finalists in each category: Best Friends, Hero Cat, Most Incredible Story, Outstanding Rescue Cat, and Celebrity Cat. The five celebrity judges – Rick Wakeman, model Lucy Pinder, comedian Ed Byrne, newsreader and TV presenter Jan Leeming, and Daily Telegraph writer Bryony Gordon – had the unenviable task of selecting winners for each category. The cat who saved his owners from a potential gas explosion, or the one who scared off a burglar? Bindi, whose strange behaviour led to a life-saving cancer diagnosis? Or Schnookums, for the comfort and companionship she gives to psychiatric patients and people living with dementia?
Several touching stories and a few hair-raising tails later, the results were in. Hero Cat was awarded to Charley, who potentially saved his diabetic owner’s life by waking her husband when she collapsed with a hypoglycaemic attack in the middle of the night. William won the Most Incredible Story category for dragging himself half-a-mile back to his owner’s house in critical condition with severely damaged back legs following a dog attack. The Outstanding Rescue Cat award went to Phoenix, in recognition of her unlikely survival after being found severely burned and maggot-infested. Finally, the Celebrity Cat prize was given to Simon’s Cat, beloved worldwide for his mischievous antics (you can make his acquaintance below, if you haven’t already).
The awards also showcased the importance of the work that Cats Protection have been doing across the UK since 1927. With 260 branches and 30 adoption centres, Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity. Their approach is shaped by their vision of “a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs”. They run a neutering programme – which even extends to feral cats – to reduce numbers of unwanted felines, and an education programme to help children (and adults!) learn how best to care for cats. They re-home and reunite over 48,000 cats every year – that’s nearly 1000 a week. Moreover, they never put healthy cats to sleep, preferring to look after them for however long it takes to find them a new home. And all of this funded by charitable donations, with a staff comprised almost exclusively of volunteers.
The ceremony wrapped up promptly for photos and the distribution of prizes: three months’ supply of cat food and a year’s worth of kitty litter, as well as framed photographs of each of the finalists. I left feeling distinctly cat-less, and more than a little tempted to relieve Cats Protection of one of their charges. As Rick Wakeman put it: “You don’t adopt them. They adopt you – and end up running your life”.
Photos: Sherinne Abdou
For more information about Cats Protection, or to make a donation, click here.
See Celebrity Cat winner Simon’s Cat, by British animator Simon Tofield, here: