Hero cat saves heart attack owner’s life, backing research that shows pets will help those in distress

NOTTINGHAM, England — A heroic cat in the UK saved its owner’s life by tapping its paws on her chest to wake her up after suffering a heart attack in her sleep. The incredible behavior reinforces previous research that shows animals not only show an interest in helping their owners, but will make attempts to help them on their own.

Sam Felstead, 42, was sleeping when she was awakened by her 7-year-old cat, Billy, at 4.30am at her home in Nottingham, England. She realized that she was unable to move her body and had a shooting pain in her right side, so she called her mother for help. Felstead, a receptionist at Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham, was rushed to hospital by her mother in the early hours of August 8.

Doctors told her she had suffered a heart attack in her sleep. Now she believes Billy’s quick actions saved her life. “I was a little shocked, went to bed and felt fine. I had even been out with the dogs and didn’t feel bad or have any pain,” she recalled in a interview with SWNS “Suddenly I woke up in the early morning covered in sweat and I couldn’t move. Billy was on my chest meowing loudly in my ear hole. He was really meowing. He doesn’t normally do that, he sleeps all day and all night, it’s his life.

“He wouldn’t leave me. It’s not a lap cat. It’s not a lightweight cat either, and it’s definitely not a cat that wants to be on your lap all the time. He likes to be alone,” she continues. “He never woke me up the night before, he never bothered you. He doesn’t wake you up to eat. He is normally my mother, he loves her and does not take care of me. Mom was quite shocked. I told her he woke me up and she was even more shocked. You don’t hear about it with cats. I’m just glad he woke me up. Who knows if I would have got up without him, it could have been worse for me.

Doctors discovered that one of Felstead’s arteries was blocked, causing the heart attack. A balloon was placed in his artery and will now have to take medication for the rest of his life. It’s a small price to pay for a situation that could have led to the end of his life.

“I am grateful to him. My alarm went on for another two hours so who knows if I would have woken up. The doctors said it was a good job. I got to the hospital in time,” she says. “I think he saved my life, just like everyone around me.”

Pets really want to save their owners

Stories of pets going the distance to help a distressed owner bolster previous research that shows dogs will save their owners in a dire situation. The 2020 study by researchers at Arizona State University investigated the reactions of 60 pet dogs when their owners were apparently trapped in a “locked” box. None of the dogs studied had previous experience or training in rescuing people.

While the owners were inside, they called their dogs for help. A third of the dogs ended up saving their owners, which the researchers found very impressive. They say the dogs’ heroic actions were striking for two main reasons. First, the dogs clearly showed a desire to help their owners, and second, the dogs were also smart enough to understand what action needed to be taken (opening the box door).

Two additional control tests in the study confirmed that most dogs exhibited a physiological response to the cries of their distressed owners. “What is fascinating about this study,” concluded co-author Clive Wynne, “is that it shows that dogs truly care about their people. Even without training, many dogs will try to rescue people who seem distressed – and when they fail we can always see how upset they are Control test results indicate that dogs who don’t save their people are unable to figure out what to do – it’s not that they don’t care about their people.

Cats are as caring as dogs – and even babies

But does that mean dogs are more connected to their owners than cats? According to a 2019 study from Oregon State University, cats care about their human caregivers as much as any dog ​​or child! For the first time, researchers have concluded that cats display the same attachment styles as dogs and human babies.

“In dogs and cats, attachment to humans may represent an adaptation of the offspring-caregiver bond,” lead author Kristyn Vitale explained in a statement. “Attachment is a biologically relevant behavior. Our study indicates that when cats live in a dependent state with a human, this attachment behavior is flexible and the majority of cats use humans as a source of comfort.

The researchers entered a group of cats in a “safe baseline test,” in which each cat spent two minutes in a room with its owner, two minutes alone, and then another two minutes with its owner. The end goal of the test was to classify each feline’s attachment tendencies as secure or insecure. Dogs and human infants have passed similar attachment tests in the past. For reference, infants or animals that display “secure attachment” generally trust their caregivers. They look to them for protection and even believe that their caregiver will come back to them once separated.

Sam Felstead and his cat, Billy. (Credit: SWNS)

When the cats’ owners returned for the two-minute meeting phase, the researchers set out to see how each animal reacted. If the cat showed no signs of stress and was not surprised that its owner returned, the cat was classified as having a “secure attachment”. Conversely, if upon seeing its owner, the cat reacted by showing signs of stress (twitching its tail, licking its lip) and avoiding or initiating (jumping onto its lap) contact, the cat was classified as having a “insecure attachment”.

These tests were conducted with both kittens and adult felines. Next, a team of behavioral experts watched recorded footage of the experiment and compared each cat’s actions to criteria typically used to assess levels of attachment in dogs and human infants.

Of the 70 kittens that were suitable to be placed in a category, 64.3% were classified as firmly attached and 35.7% were classified as poorly attached. The research team was also curious whether socialization training would impact these statistics, so they enrolled the kittens in a six-week training course and readministered the experiment. Surprisingly, there were no major differences in the results of the second experiment.

What’s more, the study authors say they were surprised at how well the percentages of secure and insecure attachments in the feline groups mirrored outcomes among a population of human infants. Among a group of infants, 65% were found to be securely attached, just 0.8% of the feline group.

There are so many proven benefits to owning a pet, and having them there to help you out in dire situations is another one to add to the list.

Comments are closed.