Video: ‘Cat of the Year’ announced at national awards

Award winner Claire Hopkinson and Anita Dobson. Photo: Philippa Gedge Photography
Award winner Claire Hopkinson and Anita Dobson. Photo: Philippa Gedge Photography

A plucky puss who saved the day by waking a family as a fire engulfed their home has been crowned overall winner in Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2016, sponsored by PURINA®.

Five-year-old Tink leapt onto a bed to raise the alarm as the blaze took hold while owners Claire and Russell Hopkinson and sons Jake, 19, and Scott, 22, slept in their home in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

At the awards ceremony, held at The Savoy in London on Thursday (4 August), the brave tortoiseshell moggy was crowned overall winner after first scooping the Hero Cat category.

Claire, who was at the ceremony to accept Tink’s award, said: “Tink has always been a much-loved pet but not a day goes past when I’m not grateful for her actions on that day. If it wasn’t for her the outcome could have been horrific, she is our true hero.”

The family had been sleeping at their home in the early hours one morning in February when an electrical fault in a neighbouring property sparked the fire.

Claire said: “I was fast asleep when I felt this thud on my legs and realised it was Tink. She doesn’t sleep on our bed and it was unlike her to be on it. As soon as I opened my eyes all I could see was white smoke.

“My two sons sleep with their doors shut and when I opened Scott’s door, this thick black smoke bellowed out. The smoke had passed through the vent straight into his room and he was fast asleep. Because his door was shut the smoke hadn’t yet reached the fire alarm – without Tink waking me Scott would have been in huge danger.

“We quickly got out of the house but, in the commotion, Tink took fright and hid behind a cupboard. When the firefighters arrived they asked if anyone was in the house and we explained our cat was.

“A firefighter went in and found her but, when he brought her out, she was unconscious and limp. We were heartbroken and thought we’d lost her. But the firefighters had a special oxygen mask for animals and Scott sat in the fire engine holding it on her for an hour until she came round.

“I can’t explain how relieved and happy we were she pulled through. Tink is a truly special cat, we love her to bits. She’s our hero and an essential part of our family and we’re so proud of her for what she did.”

Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards is the UK’s largest celebration of real-life stories of companionship, bravery and survival in the cat world.

Tink was first chosen as the winner of the Hero Cat category by celebrity judge, actress Anita Dobson, before being chosen as overall winner by a panel of judges comprising of actor Paul Copley, singer Saffron Sprackling, former Hollyoaks actors Carley Stenson and Danny Mac and musician Rick Wakeman.

Other celebrities at the ceremony - hosted by BBC announcer and “voice of the balls” Alan Dedicoat – were TV psychologist Jo Hemmings, and Commonwealth Games gold medallist clay target shooter Charlotte Kerwood.

Anita said: “Tink’s story really stood out because it really tugged on my heartstrings, particularly the part where he passed out and had to be resuscitated by firefighters. He is a true hero!”

As well as the honour of being crowned National Cat of the Year, Tink and her owners received a prize of a trophy, a pet store voucher, a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine and a three-month supply of PURINA® pet food.

Kate Bunting, the awards organiser at Cats Protection, said Tink’s story was an inspiring one.

“Tink’s truly remarkable and it just goes to show how important cats are to family life. Her quick thinking alerted the whole family to a potential disaster,” she said.

“It was particularly poignant to hear how devastated the family were when they thought Tink had succumbed to smoke inhalation. It shows how important cats are to family life and we are so pleased that she managed to pull through.”

Tink follows in the paw prints of a long line of feline heroes honoured by Cats Protection. Previous winners have included Jessi-Cat, who was celebrated for helping a seven-year-old boy cope with Selective Mutism, a condition which affects his ability to speak and Nelson, a one-eyed former stray from County Durham, who survived nearly drowning and 15 years living rough.

The winners of the other categories were:

- Houdini from Stoke-On-Trent who won the Furr-ever Friends prize – For the family of schoolboy Harri Cossburn, Houdini is not only a much-loved pet but he is also an in-house therapy cat. Harri, 10, is on the autistic spectrum and suffers from anxiety attacks, finding it difficult to be alone. But since two-year-old Houdini came into his life, Harri has found a constant source of comfort, support and friendship.

- Jessie from Peterborough who won Outstanding Rescue Cat - Life for Tracey Jessop-Thompson and her husband Stephen changed forever when their 18-year-old daughter Lucy died suddenly from a cardiac arrest as a result of an undiagnosed heart condition. As the devastated couple went about slowly rebuilding their lives, they found comfort, support and joy in the most unexpected of places – a tiny rescue kitten called Jessie. Now aged one, fun-loving Jessie has given the couple the strength to embark on charity work to raise awareness of heart conditions in young people.

- Peggy from Dundee who took home the Cats Protection Special Recognition Award - Tortoiseshell puss Peggy was recognised for her companionship, loyalty and support which transformed the life of owner Kirsty Oliphant. Kirsty, 23, was at rock bottom when she adopted Peggy – then aged 16 and suffering from FIV- from Cats Protection’s Dundee & District Branch in 2014. With a long history of mental health issues, Kirsty had frequently been admitted to a psychiatric hospital following a series of suicide attempts. But after adopting Peggy, life changed almost overnight for Kirsty and she is now well enough to undertake a university course to study mental health nursing later this year.

- Smokie from Woking who won the Purina® Better Together category - Six-year-old Smokie was in a bad way when she turned up as a bedraggled stray on Jane Leggott’s doorstep. Suffering with a congenital eye problem, her vision was impaired and she was desperately in need of someone to take care of her. Deciding to keep her, Jane had no idea how much Smokie would come to mean to her family, especially son Stefan, then aged 18, who was struggling to cope with the death of his stepfather.

- Spike from Abergavenny who was awarded Most Caring Cat - When a rare illness left Maria Price paralysed almost overnight, her world fell apart around her. After a month in hospital, the 38-year-old faced a long battle to adjust to her condition and find the strength to recover. Support, companionship and inspiration came in the form of her seven-year-old cat Spike.