A heroic cat who lost both eyes as a kitten has been recognised for his work bringing happiness and comfort to sick patients and their families at a hospice.
Carrots, four, proved to be head and tails above the rest in the nationwide search for the 2020 winner of the Blue Cross Medal, which is now in its 80th year and honours inspirational pets who have changed lives for the better.
When he’s not chasing after his favourite scrunchy ball, Carrots is a familiar face at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford, bringing relief and joy to those receiving palliative care.
The ginger and white tomcat first started visiting the hospice almost three years ago when his owner, Katie Lloyd, was diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumour called anaplastic astrocytoma - but it wasn’t just her life that he transformed while he was there.
He soon became nothing short of a furry legend with patients and staff and was visiting twice a week to carry out his therapy duties.
Carrots, who was one of 143 nominations for the medal this year, is now the only therapy cat within Marie Curie Hospices and is the UK’s only blind therapy cat.
Katie, who runs a local cat rescue and took in Carrots as a tiny kitten, said: “I'm so incredibly proud of Carrots for winning the 2020 Blue Cross Medal. I’m really humbled and didn’t expect Carrots to get this kind of recognition.
“When Carrots first arrived I knew immediately that he was a special boy. He has been my companion for many years, helping me get through some of the hardest times of my life.
“Whenever I am going through my therapy treatment, he seems to have a sixth sense that I need additional comforting and makes me feel so at ease.”
She continued: “He has also been there for everyone at the Marie Curie Hospice in their hour of need and is special to so many people.
“He loves visiting patients and settles beside them so that they can stroke him and listen to him purr. He touches the hearts of everyone he meets and has a great sense of love and responsibility.
“I’ll never forget one evening when we received a call from the hospice to say there was an older gentleman facing difficult circumstances. He was very distressed and agitated and was requesting a visit from Carrots – so we travelled to the hospice right away.
“When he saw me with Carrots on my shoulder at the door, he immediately relaxed. Shortly after Carrots snuggled down on the bed with him, the gentleman fell asleep. It was probably the first rest that he had managed to get in 12 hours.”
She added: “During the Covid-19 pandemic he has really missed seeing his friends at the hospice, so he’s been busy writing letters to some of the lovely people he’s met through his therapy work. He signs off all his letters with a paw print of course!”
Julia Mckecknie-Burke, Blue Cross Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications and one of four judges on this year’s panel, says: “With the Blue Cross Medal we want to celebrate the extraordinary things pets do for us and how they change our lives. Carrots is a perfect example of this, and we’re honoured to award him the Blue Cross Medal on its 80th anniversary, placing him alongside a long list extraordinary pets that have transformed or saved human lives.”
The idea of the Blue Cross Medal was first conceived in 1917 during World War One and was given to people who helped rescue animals.
However, the first time it was presented to an animal specifically was in 1940, to a dog called La Cloche, for saving his owner from drowning – after a German torpedo hit their ship.
Last year’s Blue Cross Medal winner was self-taught assistance dog, Lily-Rose – an eight-year-old papillon-cross who saved her owner from choking and alerted the owner when her mother collapsed after a heart attack.