The Cats of 9/11

9/11. Video screenshot.
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Today I’d like to talk about the cats of 9/11. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the worst day in American history during my lifetime, I’d like to remember the cats who were at Ground Zero during the 9/11 attacks when terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers. Note: this page has been updated by Michael on May 5, 2022 (and republished), to include a story about a cat (see end of article). At the time that the article was first published Elisa, the author, couldn’t find any articles about cats and therefore the update is an attempt to rectify that omission, which is entirely understandable.

The sound tracks of all the videos of the catastrophe include the exclamations: ‘Oh my God’. People instinctively turned to God during this horrendous moment even if they were not religious. It is interesting and sad. And most people who videoed it were smiling as if being entertained forgetting that more 3,000 people were being killed as they watched. Human nature, I guess. For some it was like watching television. It was not real.

How many cats died on 9/11? It’s a question people ask and nobody knows the answer. But the must have been some deaths in adjacent apartments. We don’t know whether any cats were in the twin towers at the time. This might be the only article on cats on that eventful day – MikeB.

I’d never given much thought to the animals who were caught up in the destruction. Everyone has their own memories of that day. Mine are of fire and panic and death. Also, bravery. A lot of people died saving others.

In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers in New York City
In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers in New York City. Photo/Richard Drew.

I received an email on Thursday from the ASPCA commemorating the event and the part the ASPCA played that day. This organization was one of several who took charge to help rescue and reunite animals with their owners. If you look at a map of New York City, the ASPCA is located about 8 miles from the World Trade Center.

This made it possible for them to immediately spring into action. Volunteers and staff members, along with the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Agents, set up two mobile veterinary units in lower Manhattan. They worked around the clock to care for the injured animals and to reunite the animals with their owners.

Dr. Larry Hawk, President and CEO at the time, lost a sister on American Airlines Flight 11, where she worked as a flight attendant. Yet he jumped right in to help out the cats and dogs at these two mobile veterinary units.

In the weeks that followed 9/11 there were more than 5000 volunteer applications from people wanting to help the ASPCA in New York City. More than 100 organizations supported the effort both monetarily and by donating supplies and food.

The HSNY (Humane Society of New York) team was also immediately on the scene and their Veterinary Assistant, Kerry McGinnis, was featured in the Life 9/11 commemorative magazine issue and book. A picture of her can be found here.


There is also an exhibit featuring her life size picture on display on the ground and second floors of the Time Warner Center. Faces of Ground Zero:10 Years Later is open to the public from August 24-September 12. More than 50 images from Joe McNally’s renowned “Faces of Ground Zero, Portraits of the Heroes of September 11, 2001” are on display along with video interviews of where the heroes are now and how 9/11 affected their lives.

Yesterday I read an article here written by Christine Church. She brought up a point I’d never considered. Christine did an internet search about the cats of 9/11 and came up with NOTHING! Not one word about the cats (or dogs) who were caught up in this tragedy.

I decided to conduct the same search and came up with only one reference to a cat who survived a week on his own in an apartment near Ground Zero when his owner, Gwen Cooper, couldn’t return to help her cat.

If her name is familiar to you, it’s because Gwen went on to write the New York Times Best Seller Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale. Homer is a remarkable cat, losing both of his eyes to an infection when he was just three weeks old. Gwen is also quite special, as she donates a percentage of her book sales to animals in need.

Here’s a video of Gwen talking about her amazing cat.

Many cats had owners who were killed during the attacks and in the aftermath and would never come home. People living in apartments in the area who, like Gwen, weren’t allowed back in for days after the attacks. Animals and people alike were caught up in a nightmare more horrible than I can even imagine.

The feral cats, strays and homeless cats had to breathe in the smoke and other toxins. They had to face a world suddenly turned upside down. Many did not survive. Are there any cats out there today who survived 9/11? I checked, and found Homer alive and well and on Facebook under HomerBlindWonderCat. Is it possible his cat family is the only cat family left 10 years after 9/11?

Readers, do any of you know of other cats who are still with us so we can pay tribute to their survival as well as to everyone who lived and died on that day? Please feel free to contribute any cat rescues you remember from Ground Zero.

Please keep our country in your thoughts during this painful week.

Update May 5, 2022 – Precious a Himalayan cat

Update May 5, 2022: I feel that I have to try and find a story about at least one cat that survived 9/11. Elisa said she couldn’t find any stories on the Internet and I understand that. There are some stories but they are tucked away and hard to find. There must have been cats in apartments adjacent to the twin towers who were victims of 9/11; either through direct injury and being killed by flying debris or because they were abandoned long enough for them to die of starvation.

Precious is a cat that survived. She was a pampered apartment pussycat according to Roy Cross of the Suffolk SPCA who rescued her. She was a 9-pound Himalayan Persian i.e. a pointed Persian cat. Her owner was JD Kerr. I have presumed that she has now passed of natural causes because this happened a long time ago.

Precious’s owner was out at the time of 9/11. She was near death when found on the roof of 114 Liberty Street. She was burned and battered and had survived 18 days without food in the ruins of Ground Zero.

She had suffered cuts, eye injuries and burns to her paws and damage to her lungs. She had inhaled ash and toxic chemicals. They believe that she had survived by drinking from puddles of contaminated rainwater on the roof. Domestic cats have a great ability to survive the most difficult conditions.

The rescuers did not know who her owners were but through detective work in discussions with the building superintendent, identified Precious’s owners. She recovered and was described as a loving kitty who adored her turkey treats.

My initial research throws up no other story about cats. However, it is reasonably to suggest that there are some untold cat stories. Perhaps many. They are out there in the wind. And to all the cats that died, RIP.

There are lots of stories about dogs which is to be expected because lots of dogs were used by police and rescuers to find any survivors. Many dogs were killed at 9/11 on my research but some article say that only one dog died on that day, a police dog named Sirius. But, as I understand it, there are some kennels in the basement with dogs in them and they had to be abandoned when rubble started to fall from the ceiling.

Sirius was with his handler when the first plane struck the World Trade Centre. His handler put him in his cage to investigate but was unable to return before the building collapsed. – MikeB.


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The Cats of 9/11

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Sep 14, 2011
I loved her book!
by: Alex Hamilton I recommend it to all…

Sep 10, 2011
The cats of 9/11
by: Rudolph.A.Furtado After World War-2 , the post 9/11 events have been the worst in terms of human lives lost in modern history. As usual, animals have been a casualty of these events and in my own country India, the recent spate of terrorist attacks, although for different reasons, have claimed numerous lives, both human and pets, the pets casualty being undocumented.
The story of “Homer” is strange and bizarre which proves the human superstition towards cats, amongst all pet animals. “Homer” in the video seem to be a “Bombay Cat” or just a “Black Cat” in color, a rare survivor among pets in the 9/11 apocalypse.”Black cats” are considered unlucky in manny cultures including Indian culture and also lucky in some cultures which include Japanese and Australian cultures.
The fact that black cat “Homer” survived blindness as well as 9/11 and is also the product of a best -seller book on himself makes this cat a truly lucky black cat.
The way terrorism has progressed in the developing economies most prominently being India, i shudder to think of the fate of my pets should something un-expected happen to me.
9/11 has definetly made the whole World a dangerous place, both for humans and their animal pets.

Sep 10, 2011
Let’s remember
by: Michael Thanks Elisa for remembering the animals killed in the attack. I would also like to remember the cats of Iraq caught up in the war. There must have been tens of thousands who suffered and were killed. Then there is Afghanistan and so on. As you say no one mentions them except us!

Sep 10, 2011
Thinking about you
by: Ruth Thinking about you all and mourning the loss of all the lives on 9/11, both human and animal.Kattaddorra signature Ruth

10 thoughts on “The Cats of 9/11”

  1. After the horror that’s unfolding in Maul, I am sharing this story about Precious to give people some hope about their missing pets.

  2. Being involved then with a local TNR progam in NJ we offered to adopt one of the four kittens found at 9/11 as soon as hearing about it. She was a small framed pure black cat and we named her Abigail. She lived for 20 years and ironically died on 9/11/2021. We still talk about her and was surprised to find this post. Any questions feel free to email me.

  3. Actually, I was looking up whether there were animals on board the planes that crashed on 9/11. Couldn’t find any info. Then, I came across your article, which is the only one mentioning animal victims, although, near to the Twin Towers site. Usually, there are pets,being transported, on most flights, either accompanying their family, or to be picked up at the destination. It’s sad, that if any perished, there is no acknowledgment.

    • They are known to land on their feet.
      But thinking that any thermo reactions that can liquefied concrete would just make the cats go I’m not staying here.

  4. Thank you for bumping this article, and thank you to Elisa for writing it.

    I have often wondered how cats fared on and after that day. It is heartening that so many people offered their help.

    In the UK, there were no reports about companion species being killed, saved or how they fared afterwards. Not one mention of cats. Not one.

    The only mentions of other species were reports of the UK search & rescue organisations, sending search dogs and handlers to help scour the wreckage for human survivors.

    I remember one UK article, several years after, detailing how human rescuers were suffering from a high incidence of cancers & severe respiratory conditions. The article made one mention that several search dogs had also died from similar conditions.

    I saw the first BBC television news report of this unimaginable event, a few minutes after it happened. It took a me few minutes to work out just what had happened.

    My first thoughts after seeing reports of any disaster are aways, “what about the animals, what about the cats?”

    The media shepherd and forcibly order where our personal & natural concern should lie. All life matters, not only human life.


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