Robbie , a courageous cat from Croydon, has been named PDSA Pet Survivor of the Year after he was caught in a terrible fire, leaving him with extensive burns and fighting for his life.
The award recognises Robbie’s sheer determination to pull through despite the odds, as well as his owner’s devotion to his care and the dedication of the vet team who provided his life-saving treatment.
Vet charity PDSA set up the competition to find Britain’s pluckiest pet, according to senior vet Elaine Pendlebury: “We were inundated with amazing stories of pets that have survived against all odds. The entries included pets hit by trains, lost on the moors, crushed by tractors, bitten by snakes and cancer sufferers to name but a few. They were truly inspirational and helped to remind me why I originally decided to become a vet.”
Robbie was nominated for the competition by his now owner, Gill Smith (54), a retired police officer from South Croydon. Robbie was just six-months-old and thought to be a stray when he took shelter in an abandoned sofa in the village of Ash, Kent, in May this year. But this nearly proved his undoing when it was somehow set alight and consumed by flames, with poor Robbie still inside.
He was rushed to nearby Broadway Vets with severe burns to his face, head, legs and paws. Principal Vet Sarah Platt said: “Robbie was in shock when he arrived and needed intensive care. He stayed with us for six-months during which time he had two skin grafts and daily dressing changes. One of his back legs also had to be amputated. But Robbie always loved attention even when he was critically ill - very few animals could have coped the way he did.”
Despite the pain and discomfort, Robbie was very tolerant and patient as he received thousands of pounds worth of treatment to put him back on all-fours. Incredibly, much of this was paid for by the local community after the vet practice published appeals in the local paper.
Gill was visiting Herne Bay when she saw Robbie’s story in the local paper and joined in the fundraising activities to finance his treatment. She visited him regularly, despite living some distance away and, when no owner came forward, she offered Robbie a home for life.
Gill said: “I’m over the moon that Robbie has won PDSA Pet Survivor 2013! Robbie is a unique character and he still bears the physical scars from his fiery ordeal. The tips of his ears are missing, he has a ‘Mohican’ due to the skin graft on his head, and the toes on his remaining back leg were ‘melted’ together into a stump. But despite this he runs around the house like a rocket. He is a little hero, and his bravery and fortitude have inspired many people in the community.”
PDSA vet Elaine Pendlebury added: “Robbie is a truly inspiring story for us all. He coped so well with his pain and suffering and fought back against severe injuries that not all pets would have overcome. He really is a true survivor.”
A panel of judges, including Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon, vet and TV presenter Steve Leonard, together with PDSA vets Elaine Pendlebury and Sean Wensley, had the difficult task of selecting just six finalists from all the Pet Survivor entries.
Two runners up were also chosen: Rex, a Border Collie from Brough who was hit by a train, shattering his skull; and Wufra, a Saluki/Lurcher cross who survived for three weeks in the Yorkshire Dales with no food or water and a broken leg. The other three finalists were Thumper, a rabbit from Goring who survived a fox attack, Bengal cat Malteaser from Ely who was nearly frozen to death, and Border Collie Pip from Blackburn who was crushed under a tractor wheel, shattering her pelvis.
Pet Survivor Judge Liz McClarnon, well known for her love of animals, said: “Judging was so hard.In all the stories I read both the owners and vets showed complete commitment to help these little heroes survive. Robbie is such a beautiful and brave feline, I cried reading his story and am so happy he’s won!”
Steve Leonard added: “Judging this competition was tough as there are so many hard-working vets and owners looking after pets that have really been through the mill. Reading these stories made me very proud of my profession and grateful to work alongside some dedicated animal enthusiasts. Animals so often surprise us with their stoicism and tenacity, and there are so many lessons we could learn from them. Robbie’s is a horrific story, but has an amazing outcome with a great community effort, he really deserves the title of PDSA Pet Survivor 2013.”
The finalists went forward to a public vote, which ran between 8-15 December, to decide on the winner.