May 16, 2014 at 5:16 PM ET
It’s not unusual these days for family pets to attain Internet fame — but this week, Tara the “hero cat” is reigning as queen over them all.
A one-minute surveillance video captured the normally mellow family cat saving her human family member, a 4-year-old California boy named Jeremy Triantafilo, from a harrowing and unprovoked dog attack. After the video went viral on Wednesday—(it has been seen more than 17 million times on YouTube alone)—the Triantafilo family appeared on TODAY on Thursday to talk about how Jeremy is recovering from his injuries.
“For the cat-loving world, this was our Lassie moment,” cat behaviorist and host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell” Jackson Galaxy told TODAY.com. “It gives an opportunity to reexamine what cats are.”
Tara’s daring rescue was remarkable, but she isn’t the only feline to save a human from danger or death. Here are five more outstanding examples of kitties coming to the rescue:
Jack the clawless cat chases bear up a tree
Who knows? Tara just might be long-distance pals with Jack, a 15-pound cat who was not at all happy when a black bear wandered into his backyard in West Milford, N.J., in June 2006.
The clawless tabby confronted the bear and sent it scrambling up a neighbor’s tree. Jack hissed at the base of the tree and kept the bear trapped there for about 15 minutes. Then, when the bear tried to get away, Jack chased it up another tree.
"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Jack's owner, Donna Dickey, told the Newark Star Ledger at the time. After Dickey called Jack inside, the bear beat a path back to the woods.
Baby the cat saves couple pregnant with twins from fire
Some cats, like a 13-year-old tabby named Baby, tend to be timid all their lives. But on a night in 2010 when multiple lives were at stake, Baby's personality changed.
Josh Ornberg and Letitia Kovalovsky—who was seven months pregnant with twins—had fallen asleep on the couch in their suburban Chicago home. The couple's house was stocked with baby gear and recently assembled cribs.
A fire began in a back bedroom, and the house began filling with smoke. Baby jumped on Ornberg and woke him up. "It's kind of embarrassing that I needed my cat to wake me up, but she was my fire detector," Ornberg told PeoplePets.com at the time. "She's usually not a very social cat, but she jumped on my lap and was jumping around."
The fire destroyed nearly all of the couple's possessions and made the home uninhabitable for a time—but everyone survived. Wonder Lake Fire Protection Assistant Chief Mike Weber called Baby a hero. "We don't know what the outcome would have been if not for the cat," Weber said.
Schnautzie the kitten protects couple from deadly gas leak
Schnautzie was still just a kitten when she did something big—really big—for her owners. At about 2 a.m. on a cold night in October 2007, Schnautzie ambled up onto the chest of sleeping Trudy Guy and began tapping Guy's nose with her paw. The first time it happened, Guy ignored the adorable annoyance and went back to sleep. But Schnautzie was persistent: Tap. Tap. Tap.
This time around, the pats on the nose woke Guy up, and she noticed the way Schnautzie was sniffing the air. She awakened her husband, Greg Guy, and they both heard an ominous hissing noise. A gas pipe leading into their Montana home had broken and was filling their basement with fumes.
The Guys and their trusty feline fled the house. Firefighters later told the couple that if the furnace had kicked on—highly probable on such a cold night—the whole house could have exploded in flames.
Pudding the cat rouses woman from diabetic seizure
A Wisconsin woman named Amy Jung credited her 21-pound cat Pudding with saving her from the grip of diabetic seizure mere hours after she adopted him from an animal shelter in 2012.
“If something or someone hadn’t pulled me out of that, I wouldn’t be here,” Jung told the Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper at the time.
On the night she brought Pudding home, Jung — who is in her 30s and has been living with diabetes since the age of 4 — went to bed at about 9:30 p.m. About 90 minutes later, she started to have a diabetic seizure. That’s when, according to the Press-Gazette, “Pudding planted his weight on her chest and, when he could not wake her, began swatting her face and biting her nose.”
Jung came to her senses enough to yell out to her son Ethan for assistance. At that point, Pudding jumped up onto Ethan’s bed and startled him into action. He immediately rushed to get his mom the help she needed.
Tommy the cat apparently dials 911 to help owner
Police aren't sure how else to explain it, but when an officer walked into an apartment in January 2006 to answer a 911 call, an orange-and-tan striped cat was lying by a telephone on the living room floor. The cat's owner, Gary Rosheisen, was on the ground near his bed having fallen out of his wheelchair.
Rosheisen said his cat, Tommy, must have hit the right buttons to call 911.
"I know it sounds kind of weird," Officer Patrick Daugherty said, unsuccessfully searching for some other explanation.
Rosheisen said he couldn't get up because of pain from osteoporosis and ministrokes that disrupt his balance. He also wasn't wearing his medical-alert necklace and couldn't reach a cord above his pillow that alerts paramedics that he needs help. But the 911 call got placed anyway, and when Daugherty arrived on the scene, he found Tommy reclining next to the phone.
TODAY associate editor Amy Eley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.