Cat saves boy and is declared National Hero Dog

Mr Roger Triantafilo and his wife Erica with their son Jeremy and the family's hero Tara. The tabby has won recognition for its heroism after chasing off a dog which attacked Jeremy last year. Tara's bravery was captured on CCTV camera and the clip p
Mr Roger Triantafilo and his wife Erica with their son Jeremy and the family's hero Tara. The tabby has won recognition for its heroism after chasing off a dog which attacked Jeremy last year. Tara's bravery was captured on CCTV camera and the clip posted on YouTube has gone viral.PHOTO: AFP

Los Angeles - An adopted cat has made history by becoming the first feline to win an award typically given to dogs for outstanding heroism.

Tara defended its four-year-old owner, Jeremy Triantafilo, after he was attacked by a neighbour's dog in Bakersfield, California in May last year.

Jeremy was riding his bike in the driveway of his family's home when the Labrador-Chow mix suddenly approached him from behind, bit his leg and dragged him down.

Tara came running and slammed itself against the much bigger animal. It chased the dog again before returning to Jeremy's side. The boy suffered deep wounds and needed eight stitches after the attack.

The incident was captured on a home CCTV system. Jeremy's father, Mr Roger Triantafilo, posted the clip online, where it quickly went viral. To date, it has attracted more than 24 million views on YouTube, turning Tara into an international celebrity.

Last Friday, Tara was recognised for its heroism by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, which usually hands out its annual award to dogs.

The animal welfare organisation made an exception this year, and replaced the word "dog" with "cat" on the plaque. Tara also received a year's supply of cat food.

The society's president, Ms Madeline Bernstein, said: "We were so impressed by Tara's bravery and fast action that the selection committee decided that a cat this spectacular should be the National Hero Dog."

Mr Triantafilo said the cat has been very protective of his son, who has mild autism, since he was born. The tabby had followed Jeremy's parents home from a park about seven years ago and has been a member of the family ever since.

"If Jeremy falls off his bike, she comes running. If he starts crying, she comes running," Mr Triantafilo told Sky News.

Jeremy said he considers Tara his hero.

The fearless cat has also received recognition from Bakersfield city. Last year, it declared June 3 Tara the Hero Cat Day. Along with its proud owners, Tara was given the honour of tossing the first pitch at a baseball game.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2015, with the headline 'Cat saves boy and is declared National Hero Dog'. Print Edition | Subscribe