Survivors and Adventurers: Fifteen Wonderful Cats to Remember from the Year 2007
"Those who love cats which do not even purr,
Or which are thin and tired and very old,
Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
And rub their ears and smooth their breast, and hold
Their paws, and gaze into their eyes of gold."
-- Francis Scarfe, "How We Should Regard Cats Like Grizabella"
For those who love cats, 2007 was another banner year chock-full of remarkable stories about these exquisite creatures. Cats born with debilitating handicaps, such as Maxwell and Angel, not only survived but prospered. Unspeakable acts of cruelty continued unabated but the world was uplifted by brave little Adam's valiant fight for life. Adventurous souls, such as China, Macavity, and Carlsberg, came through their travails no worse for wear but a feral cat named Wild Oats had a close shave when she got her head stuck inside a peanut butter jar for nineteen days.
Number 10 Downing Street welcomed a new resident feline named Sybil while Ollie took up residence at Manchester International. Windsor Castle was forced to set out an extra plate at lunch for an enterprising feline named Mime and an Indiana cat named Winnie became a national hero when she saved her family from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Oscar astounded the medical world with his uncanny ability to predict death and Clara Carmack continued to delight both staff and visitors to the Alamo. Cat lovers paused to remember Simon, the hero of the Yangtze Incident, and to say goodbye to Port Taranaki's world famous seafaring cat, Colin's.
A brief look back at the lives and times of fifteen of the most provocative cats of 2007 follows below. For last year's recap see Cat Defender post of December 21, 2006 entitled "Heroes and Victims: Sixteen Special Cats to Remember from the Year 2006."
1.) Oscar. The Cat Whose Appearance Presages Death.
Without a doubt, the most amazing cat of 2007 was a two-year-old gray and white moggy named Oscar who is able to predict the arrival of the Grim Reaper more accurately than attending physicians. The cat, who lives at a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island, enters the rooms of patients who only have a few hours left on this earth, hops in bed with them, snuggles up, and begins to purr. As soon as they die, he quietly exits the room.
So far, he has correctly predicted the deaths of at least twenty-five patients. He is in fact so serious about his mission that he resents being expelled from the room of any dying patient. Although various explanations have been advanced, no one is quite certain how to account for his prescience. (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2007 entitled "A Visit from Oscar the Cat Means the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at Rhode Island Nursing Home.")
2.) Maxwell. Orange Tabby Survives Without Eyes and Teeth.
One of the most heartbreaking and at the same time heartwarming stories of the year concerned an orange cat named Maxwell who was not only born without eyes and teeth but later abandoned to fend for himself. Thanks to the compassion shown by Committed Alliance to Strays (CATS) of Medford, Oregon and veterinarian Shannon Sierra, Maxwell has not only survived but today leads a full and productive life.
"At first, I figured he'd survive if he was cared for, but I didn't know what his quality of life would be," Sierra recalled. "Then I spent some time with him and realized how well he gets around. He doesn't know he's handicapped. He just does what he needs to do and he does it really well." (See Cat Defender post of September 27, 2007 entitled "Abandoned to Die in a World of Darkness and Without Even Teeth, Maxwell Is Saved by the Compassion of a Rescue Group and a Veterinarian.")
3.) Angel. Kitten Is Born Without Eyes but Survives.
Angel's introduction to this world was not kind. Born without eyes, she was taken from her mother and dumped at the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County when she was only four-weeks-old. Thanks to the medical care and compassion that she received there, she not only survived but was subsequently given a home by one of the shelter's volunteers. She is reportedly doing rather well nowadays.
"She's not missing anything if you think about it," shelter worker Cecily Joque said back in February. "She's got a very good sense of where she is. She can smell and she can hear. So if you're standing by her cage, she'll grab your pants leg." (See Cat Defender post of February 23, 2007 entitled "Born Without Eyes and Later Abandoned, Humble Kitten Appropriately Enough Named Angel Has Hope for a Brighter Tomorrow.")
All handicapped cats deserve both medical care and a chance to live. As both Angel and Maxwell have proven, they can make it in this world if they are given just a little bit of assistance and compassion.
4.) Clara Carmack. Keeping the Alamo Free of Rodents.
The Alamo has always had cats but its current head mouser is really something special. Eleven-year-old, twelve-pound Clara Carmack arrived at the shrine pregnant and feral in 1996 but she was eventually trapped and domesticated. In addition to keeping the rodents at bay, Clara also serves as a guard cat and helps conduct tours of the facility.
"She's our guard kitty and the grounds are her territory," according to the Alamo's Pattie Sandoval. "No mouse would dare show his face around here." The black and white moggy is also credited with reducing stress and boosting staff morale. (See Cat Defender post of May 14, 2007 entitled "Davey Crockett May Have Lost the Alamo to the Mexicans but Clara Carmack Is Making Sure It Does Not Fall to Invading Mice.")
5.) Mime. The Cat Who Dines with the Queen.
Some felines have a taste for haute cuisine and Mime is one of them. The black and white moggy wants no part of owner Kevin Lam's leftovers. Instead she prefers to stroll across the street from the Chinese restaurant where she lives in order to cadge a free meal off of the queen at Windsor Castle.
"Mime's part of the furniture. Everyone looks forward to her visits," a castle spokesperson told The Sun. Well, not exactly everyone. The queen's prized corgis have had their objections but appear now to have grudgingly accepted the interloper's presence at lunch each day. Making Mime' coup all the more delicious is the petit fait that the queen is known to prefer dogs and horses to cats. (See Cat Defender post of November 27, 2007 entitled "Mime Eschews Her Owner's Chinese Fare in Order to Dine with the Queen's Corgis at Windsor Castle.")
6.) China. Trapped in a Crate at Sea for Thirty-Five Days.
A tough little cat named China arrived in the tiny mountain town of Hendersonville, North Carolina back in May after having been trapped in a crate of motorcycle wearing apparel that had left Shanghai thirty-five days earlier. Since shelter officials required that she spend an astounding six months in quarantine, it was at first feared that she would be killed because no one was willing to foot the bill for her forced confinement.
According to Brenda Miller of Henderson County Animal Services, an employee of the importer, Olympia Moto Sports, has expressed an interest in adopting her so hopefully she is still alive. After all that she has gone through, killing her would be a crime of monumental proportions. (See Cat Defender post of May 17, 2007 entitled "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of a Ship from China.")
7.) Sybil. Number 10 Downing Street's New Resident Feline.
For the first time since the ailurophobic Cherie Blair banished the charismatic Humphrey from the premises back in 1997, 10 Downing Street has a new resident feline and her name is Sybil. The black and white tabby, who arrived in London on September 10th from Edinburgh, is the companion of Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and his wife, Margaret.
Darling wasted no time in reassuring the media that the cat was not a freeloader and would be expected to earn her keep. "Sybil has been brought down because there are mice here," he told the Daily Mail. He also predicted that because of her past record of achievement that she soon would have the situation in hand. (See Cat Defender post of September 19, 2007 entitled "After a Dreary Ten-Year Absence, Number 10 Downing Street Has a New Resident Feline and Her Name Is Sybil.")
8.) Ollie. Manchester International's Newest Attraction.
When Ollie first arrived at Manchester International he had already lost most of his left ear and was looking down-at-the-heel. Airport officials could have had him killed, like JFK in New York is doing with its cats, but they instead decided to love and care for him.
Not only do employees and vendors of the busy transportation hub ensure that he has plenty to eat but they have also constructed a shelter for him. "Air crews give him a feed early in the morning and staff from the airport and its service partners look after him throughout the day," according to airport employee Bob Molloy. "He's a big talking point around her. Everybody likes him."
Ollie, who also has his own page on Facebook, has received food parcels from as faraway as Paris, Chicago, and New York. (See Cat Defender post of November 28, 2007 entitled "'Lovable' Ollie Finds a Home at Manchester International Airport After Workers and Vendors Come to His Aid.")
9.) Adam. Kitten Torched by Laughing Teenage Girls.
A two-month-old black kitten named Adam was set on fire by two laughing teenage girls in Santa Rosa, California on June 20th. The kitten suffered second and third degree burns over seventy-five per cent of his body and his tail was so horribly burned that it had to be amputated.
He was put through excruciating pain and multiple surgeries but somehow he survived. He is not completely out of the woods just yet but things are looking up for him in that he was recently given a home by Tina Wright of Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County.
Two fifteen-year-old girls were arrested and charged with animal cruelty on July 5th but because of their ages the severest sentence that they are eligible for under the law is three-years in reform school. Because court hearings involving juveniles are usually conducted in camera, the general public probably will never know the final disposition of this case. (See Cat Defender post of July 12, 2007 entitled "Burned Nearly to Death by Laughing Teenage Girls, Two-Month-Old Kitten Named Adam Is Fighting for His Life in Santa Rosa.")
10.) Colin's. 1990-2007, Requiescat in Pace.
Colin's, Port Taranaki's world famous seafaring cat, was killed off by Superintendent Gordon MacPherson back in May after the seventeen-year-old tortoiseshell's health had taken a turn for the worst. She made headlines in 2001 when she was either willingly or unwillingly taken aboard a South Korean tanker and spirited out of New Zealand.
As soon as MacPherson discovered what had happened, he flew to Yeosu and retrieved Colin's. She was later made an honorary ambassador for New Plymouth, where the port is situated, by Mayor Peter Tennent as well as an honorary member of the local cat club. Gone but far from forgotten, she is still featured prominently on the port's website and plaques commemorating her achievements adorn the terminal's kitchen. (See Cat Defender post of May 31, 2007 entitled "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen.")
11.) Simon. Hero of the Yangtze Incident.
Although Simon died fifty-eight-years ago, he is still very much alive in the memories of the crew of the HMS Amethyst. In fact, members of the Royal Navy gathered at his grave in Ilford, Essex for a wreath-laying ceremony on November 1st. When the HMS Amethyst was attacked and later held hostage for one-hundred-one days by Mao's forces in 1949, Simon protected the crew's dwindling food supplies from mice and helped to keep up morale.
Unfortunately, upon the ship's return to Portsmouth the hero of the Yangtze Incident died in quarantine as the result of shrapnel wounds and a broken heart. "Simon is still remembered with great affection," Stewart Hett, lieutenant commander of the HMS Amethyst, said at the recent commemoration. (See Cat Defender post of November 13, 2007 entitled "Simon, Hero of the Yangtze Incident, Is Remembered with a Wreath-Laying Ceremony in Ilford.")
12.) Winnie. Saves Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
On March 24th, a fourteen-year-old gray cat named Winnie from New Castle, Indiana saved her family from dying of carbon monoxide poisoning by awakening her mistress, Cathy Keesling. By that time Cathy's spouse, Eric, was already unresponsive and their fourteen-year-old son, Michael, was unconscious in a hallway.
"If it wasn't for Winnie screaming and hollering and carrying on, we wouldn't be here today," Cathy later declared. For her heroics, Winnie has later named Cat of the Year by the ASPCA. (See Cat Defender posts of April 23, 2007 and November 12, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Winnie Saves Indiana Family of Three from Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" and "Winnie Is Honored as the ASPCA's "Cat of the Year" for Saving Her Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.")
13.) Macavity. Rides the Bus All by His Lonesome.
A plucky white cat with one blue eye and one green one and dubbed Macavity has become a regular on the three-thirty-one bus which operates between Walsall and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Macavity, who takes the bus two or three times a week, always boards at Churchill Road in Walsall and rides for about four-hundred meters before disembarking at a shopping plaza.
Although it is a bit of a mystery what he is up to, Macavity has nevertheless earned high praise from his fellow commuters for his gentlemanly behavior. "I suppose he is the perfect passenger really," Paul Brennan told the Daily Mail. "He sits quietly, minds his own business, and then gets off." (See Cat Defender post of April 19, 2007 entitled "Bus-Hopping Macavity Earns High Praise from His Fellow Commuters for Being the 'Perfect Passenger'.")
14.) Carlsberg. The Cat Who Stowed Away on a Beer Lorry.
He did not do it in order to wet his whistle. In fact, as far as it is known he is a teetotaler. Nonetheless, a black and white moggy dubbed Carlsberg from Broseley took an unplanned two-mile jaunt on a beer lorry on October 31st.
Upon his arrival at The Swan in Ironbridge, Shropshire, he was befriended and adopted by bar employee, Catherine Redgrave. (See photo.) His previous owner, Jennie Harris, saw his photograph in the Shropshire Star, however, and sought and secured his return.
"It was such a shock. I don't know how he survived, but he seems prouder than ever," she later told the Star. (See Cat Defender post of December 12, 2007 entitled, "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime.")
15.) Wild Oats. Survives Nineteen Days with Jar on Her Head.
Wild Oats, a feral tabby from the Memphis suburb on Bartlett, was forced to go without either food or water for nineteen days in November because she had gotten her head trapped inside an empty peanut butter jar. Doretha Cain and her daughter, Tabitha, were finally able to capture her and remove the jar.
"She couldn't fight and wasn't struggling because she was barely breathing," Doretha recalled. Fortunately, she soon recovered from her ordeal and was eating again within two days. (See Cat Defender post of December 18, 2007 entitled "Wild Oats Survives Nineteen Days with a Peanut Butter Jar Stuck on Her Head.")
Not to be overlooked are Tanker Ray, a popular bar cat from Tampa, and hero cats Cuddles of Prince Albert in Saskatchewan and Bacon of Ottawa, both of whom saved their owners from perishing in fires. Tizer, head mouser at King's Cross railway station, and the Dallas Symphony's Miss Widget also made lasting impressions.
There was also Wizzo of Edwards Air Force Base and Bootsie of El Cerrito, California. Joe, a television star from Dore, England, and Nora, a piano-playing cat from the City of Brotherly Love, charmed millions with their uncanny abilities.
Blackie kept postmen in Ramsgate, Kent on their toes while Lucy of Colorado Springs and Sammy of Billingham, Washington made friends with deer. Sadly, Sammy has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Spice survived being trapped for nineteen days in a shipping crate that was bound for San Bernardino from Hawaii while Rascal meandered onto a freight train in South Bend and wound up in Chattanooga. Mimine of Treveray, Meuse and Marmalade from the Melbourne suburb on Brunswick overcame great obstacles in order to rejoin their families after long absences.
Stinky was rescued from a rooftop in New Albany, Indiana while Stone somehow survived the carnage in war-torn Lebanon in order to find a new home in Wheaton, Illinois. In Chester, England, Penny was rescued at the last minute from a scrap metal yard while in Pennsylvania's Lower Windsor Township Roo miraculously survived being run down by a motorist and nearly succumbing to hypothermia.
As in all years, countless cats were victimized by acts of violence. Bill of Vista, California was brutally slain by a psychopath with a bow and arrow while Solskjaer from the Manchester suburb of Burnage was doused with acid. A bird lover was responsible for the premature death of Fletcher from Bramley Crescent in the Sholing district of Southampton. Cosmo of Thousand Oaks, California was mauled by a coyote while Little Man of Gainesville, Virginia was horribly disfigured by an unknown animal. Thankfully, both cats survived.
Moppel of Rodau, Sachsen was caught in a leghold trap while both Butty of Houston and Mork of Ruislip in Middlesex were mistakenly killed by Animal Control. Marmalade of Lincoln City, Oregon was not only attacked by a raccoon but was dying from a prolapsed rectum when kindhearted tourists from Michigan intervened in order to save his life.
As the year draws to a close, Maximum, a Parisian cat on vacation in Los Angeles, Slim of Ottawa, and Corporal Cuffs of Philadelphia remain missing.
Photos: Dina Rudick of the Boston Globe (Oscar), Jim Craven of the Mail Tribune of Medford, Oregon (Maxwell), KOMO-TV, Seattle (Angel), J. Michael Short of the San Antonio Express-News (Clara Carmack), The Sun (Mime), Patrick Sullivan of the Times-News of Hendersonville (China), BBC (Sybil), Manchester Evening News (Ollie), Forgotten Felines (Adam), Taranaki Daily News (Colin's), People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (Simon), Associated Press (Winnie), Daily Mail (Macavity), Ed Bagnall of the Shropshire Star (Carlsberg), and Karen Pulfer Focht of the Commercial Appeal (Wild Oats).