Categories: Cat News

Tabby Cat Warns Owner Of Breast Cancer

Willow, a classic, brown tabby cat, warned her owner, Annemarie Cotton that she had breast cancer.  Cotton is convinced that her tabby cat saved her life.

“My cancer was caught in time thanks to Willow drawing my attention to my breast.”

Here’s the story in some detail.  Annemarie Cotton said:

“Willow had always liked to sit on the bathroom window sill gazing out at the garden and the river beyond, that was her spot.  Then one day I was lying on the bed when she jumped up and walk straight across my breasts.  She had never done it before and it hurt so I quickly removed her. But after that, she kept doing it. She’d also lie down across them and she kept pawing out a particular spot on my left breast.

Willow jumped up onto all different parts of the bed, she never had a routine.  But wherever she landed on the bed she’d make a beeline for that particular spot on my breast and start pawing me. She did it continually.

I started to examine my breast because it felt tender, but found nothing there and assumed the cats had bruised it.”

Annemarie Cotton refers to cats in the plural because her other cat, Sherlock, joined in on a few occasions.

Cotton kept on removing Willow from her chest but her 18-month-old cat refused to give up and returned to the same spot over and over again.

Two months later, in January 2014, Cotton found a lump in her breast in the exact same spot where the cat had been pawing her.

The lump turned out to be cancer and Cotton, from Southampton, had to undergo a course of chemotherapy. During her treatment, her two devoted cat companions continued their support by staying close to her whenever she felt unwell.

As she recovered her health both Willow and Sherlock resumed their usual routines and began going outside again.

People who know about cats and who read a lot about cats know that this sort of story is not that unusual. A particularly well-known cat in America comes to mind, namely, Oscar.  Indeed, Cotton said:

“I’ve chatted with lots of people who have similar stories to tell of their pets diagnosing unknown illnesses. My oncologist remain totally unfazed when I said Willow diagnose my cancer.”

This upbeat story has a very tragic ending because Willow was killed in a car accident at the age of three, a fortnight ago.  Annemarie is devastated. She says that she will never forget her and that she saved her life. How sad is that? There is another story to be told there too, I guess, but we’ll leave that for another time.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • So happy you made a full recovery, but please keep your cats indoors. There are too many dangers out there for these beautiful fur babies.

    • Agreed, Kitty, about keeping our beloveds inside. But, we are in America and the UK has a different point of view. They don't have the extreme experience of seeing their cats as road kill, poisoned, or abused. But, perhaps, they minimize or are in denial. Who knows?

    • That is what crossed my mind too. It is a very sad ending and frankly it could have been avoided.

  • A former work colleague's cat also prompted her to have a check up with a doctor. Apparently Dusty, suddenly began sniffing around her left breast and would then hiss and try to bite one particular spot. At first she dismissed it as simply him acting out of character, but he did it every time he came close.

    Thankfully with surgery and chemo she survived breast cancer, but she said she didn't really feel she'd got the "all clear" until Dusty confirmed it.

    She is convinced that he could smell the cancerous cells and I tend to share that belief. Dogs are being trained to recognise the scent of certain strains of cancer, so there's no reason why cats wouldn't also be capable of detecting those same scents? I wonder how animals instinctively seem to know which smells are "bad" ones, even in another species?

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