This is the story of Tommy, a red tabby cat who lived (and may still live) with a guy called Gary Rosheisen. Gary was wheelchair-bound. He suffered from osteoporosis and occasionally had mini-strokes which affected his balance. He lived alone in an apartment with Tommy. He had acquired Tommy three years previous to the event to help lower his blood pressure.

This is not Tommy because I do not have a photograph of him. But the description of him is that he is or was (he may be deceased) a red tabby cat. Red tabbies have a bit of a reputation of being very competent and leaders among cats! The picture is in the public domain in my opinion.

One Thursday night, Gary fell off his wheelchair. He couldn’t get himself back into it. He had a medical alert necklace to contact paramedics under such circumstances but unfortunately he wasn’t wearing it. He was unable to reach the emergency chord above his pillow. He was completely stuck and didn’t know what to do.

However, it appears that he had trained Tommy to speed dial 911 under such emergencies. He wasn’t sure that he had been successful in his training until the police in Columbus, Ohio received a 911 call from his address. Although the call was made nobody spoke. They thought they had to go and check it out as diligent and well trained police officers should.

When they arrived at Gary’s home they were greeted with the sight of Tommy lying next to the telephone on the living room floor. They then saw Gary on the floor next to his bed.

Gary told the police officers that he had trained his cat to make the 911 call. Officer Patrick Daugherty found the situation very strange but he decided there was no other explanation to receiving the 911 call. Gary kept his phone on the living room floor to allow access to it by Tommy. Fortunately it had a speed dial 911 button just above the speakerphone button.

It was decided that it would have been fairly straightforward (let’s say possible) for Tommy to press the right button as he had been trained to do. Tommy is Gary’s hero.

I don’t have a date for this little wonder cat story. It seems feasible. We know that domestic cats can open doors when trained to do so or when self-trained. They can open fridge doors and do some quite extraordinary things through observational self-training. I would expect the story to be true and if so we perhaps should remind ourselves that domestic cats are not just there to be companions and entertainers but occasionally to be utilitarian, working cats, the way they were when they were first domesticated!

My thanks to the book Wonder Cats, True Stories of Extraordinary Felines by Ashley Morgan.

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Michael Broad

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

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