Cat who helped family cope with death of teenage daughter from Deepings scoops top award

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A rescue cat from Peterborough who helped her owners cope with the death of their teenage daughter has scooped an award at Cats Protection’s prestigious National Cat Awards 2016.

Tortoiseshell puss Jessie was named winner of the Outstanding Rescue Cat category, celebrating amazing cats adopted from animal charities, at a ceremony at The Savoy in London.

Tracey Jessop-Thompson and her cat Jessie - Photo credit - Georgi Mabee

Tracey Jessop-Thompson and her cat Jessie - Photo credit - Georgi Mabee

Jessie was honoured in recognition of the support and companionship she has given to her owner Tracey Jessop-Thompson and her husband Stephen.

The couple rehomed Jessie from an animal charity just a few months after the sudden death of their 18-year-old daughter Lucy, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest as a result of an undiagnosed heart condition.

Tracey, of Northborough, was at the event on Thursday 4 August to accept Jessie’s award from celebrity judge, Commonwealth Games gold medallist clay target shooter Charlotte Kerwood.

Tracey said: “It means the world to me that Jessie has won this award. I don’t know how we would have coped if it wasn’t for the sunshine she brings to our lives. I hope other people will look at Jessie and realise that cats can bring great joy and comfort at the most difficult of times.

“Losing Lucy was indescribably hard and I’ve learned that comfort comes in all sorts of places, often where you don’t expect it. Jessie really has been such an incredible help to us, she has soothed me when the pain has felt too much to bear, made us smile during the darkest of days and been a constant presence in our lives.

“Jessie was a rescue cat and there are thousands of cats like her that need a home. We may have given her a home but Jessie has given us so much more – she’s given us hope and something to focus on and we feel so grateful she’s in our lives.”

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

Other celebrities at the ceremony - hosted by BBC announcer and “voice of the balls” Alan Dedicoat - were ex-Eastenders actress Anita Dobson, presenter Tim Vincent, TV psychologist Jo Hemmings and author and broadcaster Andrew Collins.

Cat-loving Commonwealth Games gold medallist clay target shooter Charlotte Kerwood chose Jessie as the winner of the Outstanding Rescue Cat category and presented Tracey with the 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.

Charlotte said: “Tracey and Jessie’s story really touched me. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a child but the joy and love the family have got from Jessie is just amazing.”

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

“Jessie is a truly special cat and we were thrilled to present her with this award. Her caring and intuitive nature makes her a great ambassador for rescue cats and we hope she will inspire many more people to adopt a cat,” she said.

Having won her category Jessie narrowly missed out on scooping the overall title of National Cat of the Year – an honour that went to Tink, a five-year-old puss who raised the alarm by waking her owners as a fire engulfed their home as they slept.

PURINA® UK&I Finance Director Paul Vernon said: “We are delighted to celebrate our long-standing support of Cats Protection by sponsoring the National Cat Awards. This is the fifth time PURINA® has sponsored the event and we are delighted to continue our partnership and support the wonderful work the organisation does.

“PURINA® is a proud supporter of pet adoption. Our current campaign to change the perceptions of rescue cats aims to encourage people to rethink rescues when they are considering owning a cat. We believe that people and pets are better together and that, when they bond, life becomes richer. The awards are a great platform for cat owners across the UK to share inspirational stories of how that special bond with their pets has improved their lives.”

Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and helps around 200,000 cats each year through its national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres. To adopt a cat please visit www.cats.org.uk or call the charity’s national helpline on 03000 12 12 12.

More: Drive to get heart scans in honour of Lucy