Friday, October 24, 2008

In Memory Of Scarlett

Scarlett, hero cat in 1996, dies
October 24, 2008

Brooklyn, a borough that generates celebrities with the regularity of horn blares, lost another of its own last week.

Scarlett, the cat who became world famous for saving her 4-week-old kittens from a burning Brooklyn garage in 1996, died on Oct. 11.

A dozen years ago, touched by media reports of how the blister-faced mother cat anxiously touched each of her five rescued babies' noses before collapsing into unconsciousness, more than 7,000 would-be adopters contacted North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, where a firefighter had taken the young calico cat. Her determined effort to save her kittens from the flames - one died soon after from a virus - extracted a price: Scarlett's eyelids were deformed, her ear tips were burned off and the fur on her seared face never grew back.

As a result of the injuries that distorted her feline visage and revealed her skin, "she had a human face," remembers Karen Wellen of Brooklyn, who adopted Scarlett after writing an impassioned letter to the Animal League describing the recent death of her own cat, and her desire for her next one to have special needs, as she herself was recovering from severe injuries from an auto accident.

Now, in the wake of Scarlett's passing, "I can't stop crying," she says, adding that the cat was believed to be at least 13 years old. "It was such a shock."

Linda Treglia, a staff veterinarian at the Animal League who had been treating Scarlett for the past two years, said she had "multiple health problems," including a heart murmur, severe dental disease and lymphoma. "These are common diseases that geriatric cats get, but what killed her in the end was kidney failure."

Scarlett is remembered on the Animal League's Web site,, on a page called The Scarlett Room. The organization also gives an animal-heroism award in her name.,0,3158256.story