This week, my editor-in-chief (Ryan Mckenzie), suggested I put together a sequel to my wildly popular Do Cats Sense Human Illness?.
Joanna Hufton / Used with PermissionIn the nine months since I wrote it, I found similar stories. On January 17th, 2015, I branched out a bit when I wrote 5 Cats Behaving Like People.
But what struck me as remarkable when I researched stories for this article were the felines who seemed to sense human emotions - especially fear.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explains numerous ways that cats help children develop life skills, but I never imagined a cat stepping in when a bully taunted and pushed a child.
Well, that's precisely what Smudge the cat did when a frightened 5-year-old, Ethan Fenton, was knocked down by one of three older (and bigger) boys.
Ethan was happily playing in the front yard of his home with his 2-year-old brother, Ashton, when three boys approached the Fenton's front gate.
His mother, Sharon, described what happened next in a July 16th, 2014 Metro article by Ollie McAteer:
"I heard them shout Ethan’s name twice but he ignored them and just put his head back down and kept playing with Ashton. But then they shouted [at] him again and then one of the boys got in Ethan’s face and said 'Oi! Why are you ignoring me?' and pushed him over.
worak on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericThat's when I rushed outside and saw Smudge fly out from under our car and jump on the boy's chest."
She recounted, "I think it was shock more than anything. But the boy stumbled backwards, burst into tears, and then ran off."
In the Daily Mail article by Gemma Mullin, I learned that Smudge actually pounced on the chest of the tallest boy in the group.
And Ethan's mom also mentioned that Smudge watches over him at night, 'keeping guard ever since it happened.'
Author's note: I wish to thank press photographer, Joanna Hufton, for providing photos of Smudge the cat. To view her portfolio/contact: Joanna Hufton | Photography Portfolio
Smudge was a runner up in the Cats Protection charity Hero Cat category in the 2014 National Cat Awards. Up next, enjoy a 50 second snippet of Smudge the cat with his family (published on August 5th, 2014 by Cats Protection).
National Cat Awards - Hero Cat Award finalist: Smudge
Recovery From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
An August 5th, 2014 article in Buckingham Today told the endearing story of a 3-year-old Turkish Van cat named Elias.
Jack Dignam-Thomas served in the Royal Army Veterinary corps during the '80s. He was a dog handler in the Army Dog Unit of Northern Ireland. It was a highly stressful job.
Zach Pharr (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsOne of the most horrific incidents Jack endured was when a member of his brigade held a 9 mm pistol to his head for hours.
"The job was high stress, very high stress. People from [the] Army Dog Unit Northern Ireland have committed suicide. I dissociate because the stress, the ghosting, the flashbacks are too bad, so I switch off."
Fortunately, Jack's family doctor and the veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress have helped him recover from PTSD. But it is Jack's wife, Sally, who maintains that when Jack shuts down, only Elias can 'bring him back.'
Sally described how Elias helps Jack the way no one else can:
"If he senses that Jack is down or not having a good day, he will go over, jump up on Jack’s lap, climb up his chest and headbutt him, until Jack comes back to the here and now and fusses [with] him. Then Elias will just purr and purr and purr and both of them will go to sleep."
And wouldn't you know it, Elias was the winner in the Most Caring Cat category of the 2014 National Cat Awards. Next is a 50 second clip of Elias interacting with Jack (published on August 4th, 2014 by Cats Protection).
National Cat Awards - Most Caring Cat Award finalist: Elias
A Calming Presence Who Inspired a Book
A June 15th, 2012 article in the Daily Mail by Liz Hull reminded me of how in-tune with human emotions a cat can be. My childhood cat, Mittens, could always sense when I was sad and she would instinctively curl up beside me at night. I was afraid of the dark.
So when I read about Billy the stray cat who helped an autistic boy, Fraser Booth, cope in our world, I just had to include him.
When Fraser was 3-years-old, the Booth family adopted Billy from a Cats Protection shelter. Billy the cat was rescued from a boarded-up council house; his previous owner had abandoned him. It's safe to assume that this loving cat had a rough start in life.
Rose Webster on Paw Mane Fin (From the Cover of the Book 'When Fraser Met Billy' by Louise Booth)However, when Fraser was taken to meet Billy, the cat walked right over to him. His mother recounted:
"Fraser sat down on the floor and Billy laid across him with his paws on his legs and just started purring. Fraser said 'This is our cat, he can come live with us' - and that was that."
Mrs. Booth mentioned in the article that Billy is the first to sense when Fraser is becoming flustered. She added, "When Fraser was [doing] poorly, Billy sat on his lap all day." She continued, "It sounds crackers, but it is like Billy is Fraser’s guardian. Their relationship is something really special."
Before Billy arrived, Fraser's mom explained her son would "cry all the time" and did not respond to her or any [of the] toys offered to him. For many autistic children, everyday tasks can quickly bring on bouts of tears or fits of anger.
The Booth family donated 30 pounds (about $45 USD) to the UK charity when they adopted Billy the cat. But Fraser's mom feels Billy is priceless. She concluded:
"Billy has made a complete difference to our family life, he’s taken away the stress, he’s added happiness and an air of calm, he’s just been amazing."
Up next is a video introduction of the book When Fraser Met Billy by Louise Booth (published on January 16th, 2014 by Hodder Books).