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 Peterborough 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.
And Jessie is now one of 15 fantastic felines to make it to the finals of the National Cat Awards 2016.
Tracey said: “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.
“She’s a truly remarkable cat and I don’t know where we would be without her.”
Other finalists include Tink, from Shrewsbury, who saved a family from a house fire after raising the alarm; Skye, from Daventry who has helped her owner overcome severe, crippling panic attacks and agoraphobia; and Frank, from Romney Marsh, who helped his owner overcome his alcohol addiction after he was discharged from a rehabilitation unit.
The owners will find out if their cat is a winner at a star-studded award ceremony at The Savoy in London, hosted by Alan Dedicoat, the Voice Of The Balls on BBC One’s National Lottery TV programmes.
Celebrity judges, including actress Anita Dobson and broadcaster John Stapleton, will present the awards on August 4.
Selected across five categories, including hero cat, most caring cat and outstanding rescue cat, the awards, sponsored by Purina, are organised by charity Cats Protection.
Kate Bunting, from the charity, said: “We had a record number of nominations this year and it was really hard to choose our finalists as there were so many touching stories.
“A quarter of the entries were from people coping with a mental health issue so this really emphasises the role cats can play for people with conditions such as depression and anxiety.”
Details of the finalists can be seen at www.cats.org.uk/get-involved/nca/