Scarlett, mother-cat who walks through fire FIVE times to rescue all her kittens

Incredible motherly love and courage:

Meet Scarlett the cat who became a world famous mother in 1996 when she selflessly walked through flames to rescue all five of her kittens from a burning building. She is living proof of the strength and willpower of motherly love.

Scarlett’s harrowing ordeal began when she and her kittens were living in an abandoned garage possibly used as a crack house in Brooklyn, NY when suddenly a rapid fire started to sweep over the building. As the NYC Fire Department began to gain control over the fire, they noticed Scarlett carrying each of her kittens one by one out of the fiery garage.

Taking a closer look, Scarlett’s eyes were blistered shut, her paws were burned red, and her fur was badly singed. Her face was missing nearly all of its fur. It was clear that Scarlett’s five trips through the flames left her badly scorched, yet she still touched each of her kittens with her nose to make sure they had all made it out safely. She then became unconscious and collapsed.

David Gianelli, a firefighter who noticed Scarlett, took her to the local animal rescue shelter, North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, NY. The facility happily took in the feline family and began to treat their wounds.



After three months of intensive care and treatment, Scarlett and all but one of the kittens had made a full recovery, and were ready to be adopted! Thousands of letters poured into the shelter offering to adopt the family, and each of the surviving cats found nurturing homes to live out their days.

Scarlett herself was adopted by a kind woman named Karen Wellen, who had been in a traffic accident herself and consequently vowed to take in a special needs animal. Scarlett was her perfect opportunity! Needless to say, Scarlett lived a long and happy life after her heroic motherly deeds.

Beng Kai shared this follow-up news:

Scarlett lived on happily for 10 years with her owner, but was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007 and later, hyperthyroidism, a heart murmur, followed eventually by kidney failure.

May Scarlett be in a good place now and may her heroism live on to inspire us all.

Her kittens also lived long lives and have now passed on.

A tribute to Scarlett:

NSALA wrote its own glowing tribute to the brave cat to accompany the image in the newsletter, under the heading Scarlett: How one cat touched so many. We reproduce it here, very slightly amended.

‘On Saturday, October 11, 2008 the world bade farewell to the beautiful and heroic Scarlett the cat, as she lost her struggle against several health issues. ‘North Shore Animal League America was extremely saddened by Scarlett’s passing. She was not only a dedicated mother, fearless heroine and beloved pet, but she was also an inspiration to us all.

‘Scarlett’s five kittens were not the only lives she saved in her lifetime. Her celebrity saved countless animals at the Animal League and all over the world, shedding light on the intelligent, intuitive and loving nature of cats. Her face regally adorns the pages of the League’s life-saving Sponsor Program, as she represents all the special-needs felines in our care.

‘Scarlett impacted all who knew her and touched the lives of countless people around the world. On October 17, 2008 at the ‘Crossroads of the World’, Times Square, New York City, Scarlett’s larger-than-life image illuminated the night on the world’s largest digital sign, the Reuters sign. At 35 feet wide by 32.5 feet tall [about 10.8 x 10 metres], viewers marvelled and paid tribute to a cat who surpassed everyone’s imagination and expectations.

‘North Shore Animal League America would like to extend its deepest condolences to Scarlett’s family and supporters. There will never be another Scarlett, but though she is physically gone from our lives, she will never be forgotten. She will remain the symbolic cat who represents all the cats in our life-saving, special-needs Sponsor Program.’

The text above Scarlett’s image reads: ‘Scarlett, the World-Famous, Brave Mother Cat who Survived a Fire and Saved her Kittens, Passes Away.’ [What a marvellous way to celebrate her life and mark her passing! —Ed.]

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