Cats to the rescue: When felines turn hero

cats Image copyright PA
Image caption The faces of heroes

Dogs are traditionally known as man's best friend. But despite their aloof reputation, cats can be just as devoted and brave. As one moggy is honoured for rescuing her owners from a house fire, BBC News takes a look at some other heroic felines.

The CAT scanner

Image copyright Cats Protection
Image caption Dogs are just so passé

Missy, a tabby from Newcastle, has something of a medical bent.

When she sensed there was something amiss with her owner - if cats can ever said to be "owned" - Missy alerted her by refusing to stop pawing at her chest.

Angela Tinning says it first happened in 2013.

"Her behaviour was so unusual I got checked out and it was found I had pre-cancerous cells. Three years later it happened again.

"I felt fine and I honestly don't think I would have bothered if she hadn't drawn my attention to it. If it weren't for her, my story could be very different today.

"She is my little hero."

The Tom with two names

Image copyright National Army Museum
Image caption "I'm watching you..."

Crimean Tom, also known as Sevastopol Tom, saved British and French troops from starvation during the Crimean war in 1854.

The regiments were occupying the Russian town of Sevastopol and could not find food. Tom could.

He led them to hidden caches of food stored by Russian soldiers and civilians.

Tom was taken back to England with the soldiers when the war was over.

After his death in 1856, he was stuffed and preserved and is a permanent part of the National Army Museum in London.

The paw-tector

Image copyright Cats Protection
Image caption "You looking at me?"

Smudge, from Thorne in South Yorkshire, became the complete guard cat when he chased away a couple of lads who were hassling the two young human brothers he lived with.

Owner Sarah Fenton saw a group of boys push her then five-year-old son to the ground.

"Within seconds, Smudge shot out from the bushes, hissed and jumped up at one of the bullies, prompting them to beat a hasty retreat."

Which just goes to show - never mess with a cat.

Simon saves

Image copyright PA
Image caption Simon: Both heroic and sardonic

Simon, a black and white ship's cat, was awarded the Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross - for helping to save the lives of Royal Navy officers during the Chinese civil war in 1949.

He protected food stores from an infestation of rats on board the HMS Amethyst during a siege.

The brave chap suffered severe shrapnel wounds and was given a hero's welcome when his ship returned to dock in Plymouth.

Simon, who was also given the rank of Able Seaman, lived long enough to get back to England, but he died in quarantine three weeks after he arrived home.

He was buried in Ilford, Essex, with full military honours.

Other recipients of the Dickin medal include messenger pigeons, horses and dogs - Simon is the only cat.

Prince Smokey

Image copyright Michael Scott
Image caption A reassuring bedside manner

Prince Smokey, from Lichfield in Staffordshire, is another puss with diagnostic skills. When his owner Tina Teasdale started having chest pains, she assumed it was indigestion.

The Prince knew better.

Ms Teasdale said the cat had always seemed to sense when she was ill, so when he became so worked up and kept pouncing at her, she made an appointment to see her GP.

Tests revealed she needed heart surgery.

"Had I not had treatment it could eventually have led to a heart attack. Without his unusual behaviour I wouldn't have followed it up with the doctor and who knows what could have happened."

Carry on Cleo

Image copyright Anna Branthwaite
Image caption The face of devotion

Cleo overcame her fear of strangers to become a prize-winning heroine.

The timid tortoiseshell, from Chessington in Surrey, was named charity Cats Protection's hero cat of the year 2014 after she raised the alarm her owner was ill.

Not only did her agitation alert Pauline Jenkins that husband Richard was having a heart attack, but Cleo clambered onto the bed and insisted on sitting with him while paramedics performed emergency treatment.

That's despite the fact she would usually run away whenever someone she didn't know approached.

On Mr Jenkins' return from hospital, Cleo stayed with him around the clock until he was back on his feet.

The judge said they selected Cleo as the charity's poster puss for her bravery.

"Cleo overcame her own fear of strangers to help her beloved owner. It was just that one factor that pushed it for me."

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