Could our Phoenix be the National Cat of the Year?

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LOCAL puss Phoenix, who was found in a coal bunker with terrible burn injuries, could be the cat that gets the cream after being announced as a finalist in Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2012.

Tabby and white cat Phoenix won her place in the final for fighting back against the odds when she was handed into Coleraine Veterinary Practice in Coleraine with horrific burns.

The eight-month-old cat is down to the last three in the Outstanding Rescue Cat category and, should she win, she’ll be in with a chance of scooping the title of National Cat of the Year.

Owner Yvonne Wreath, 53, from Ballymoney, now faces a nail-biting wait until a star-studded awards ceremony at London’s Savoy hotel on Thursday, August 16.

Originally named Sizzles by staff, Phoenix was discovered in a coal bunker in Garvagh with appalling injuries – her paws resembled red jelly and were covered in maggots, her eyes couldn’t open and her face was badly burnt.

Staff initially thought they’d have to put her to sleep but practice manager Yvonne said the tiny four-week-old kitten seemed so determined to survive that they began treatment.

After three months of round-the-clock care, Sizzles made a complete recovery, was adopted by Yvonne and given an inspirational new name in recognition of her remarkable tale – Phoenix.

Yvonne said: “It was without a doubt the most distressing case I’ve seen in 13 years of veterinary work and on the face of it she should not have survived, but she had such amazing spirit and fight.

“Her recovery has astounded everyone and she is now a happy, playful and mischievous young cat who enjoys life to the full. We’ll never know how Phoenix sustained her injuries, but despite everything she’s been through she is exceptionally loving and trusting.”

According to Kate Bunting, the Awards organiser at Cats Protection, Phoenix’s story was an inspiring one.

She said: “We had a huge number of entries and it was a tough job to narrow them down. Each and every entry we received told a tale about why cats have such a special place in people’s hearts – sometimes heart-rending, sometimes funny and often quite amazing!

“We think all cats are special, but Phoenix especially deserved a place in the final for her sheer determination to survive.”

Three cats have been shortlisted for each of the five categories in the National Cat Awards - Hero Cat, Most Incredible Story, Best Friends, Outstanding Rescue Cat and Celebrity Cat.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony hosted by Channel 4 presenter Rick Edwards and attended by celebrity judges including comedian Ed Byrne, star of Grumpy Old Men Rick Wakeman, model Lucy Pinder and former BBC newsreader Jan Leeming.