A blind therapy cat has been awarded the annual Blue Cross Medal after he helped keep spirits high at a hospice during lockdown.
Carrots, a four-year-old ginger and white cat, helps bring relief and joy to those people at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford who deal with anxiety and depression.
The Blue Cross Medal was created by the charity in 1917 during World War One to recognise the heroic pets who helped change or save lives across the UK - though the first time an animal was physically presented with the medal was in 1940.
Each year one animal is selected to win the meal and this year, the Blue Cross launched an appeal to find an animal with a special story in order to find 2020's winner.
Carrots, a four-year-old ginger and white cat, (pictured with owner Katie Lloyd) has won the Blue Cross Medal in recognition of his work helping to calm hospice patients in Bradford
Carrots, who lost both his eyes to an eye defect, saw off competition from 143 other pets around the country to win this year's prize
Now, Carrots, who lost both his eyes to an eye defect, has seen off competition from 143 other nominations after judges were left impressed by his work with sick, unwell and dying patients.
Carrots' success marks the 80th year that the Blue Cross has handed out their medal.
Carrots' owner, Katie Lloyd, said: 'I'm so incredibly proud of Carrots for winning the 2020 Blue Cross Medal. I'm really humbled and didn't expect Carrots to get this kind of recognition.
'When Carrots first arrived I knew immediately that he was a special boy. He has been my companion for many years, helping me get through some of the hardest times of my life.
'Whenever I am going through my therapy treatment, he seems to have a 'sixth sense' that I need additional comforting and makes me feel so at ease.
'He has also been there for everyone at the Marie Curie Hospice in their hour of need and is special to so many people. He loves visiting patients and settles beside them so that they can stroke him and listen to him purr.'
This year is the competition's 80th anniversary and to celebrate, a picture of Carrots will be included in a London exhibition showcasing heroic pets through the ages
During the coronavirus pandemic, when Carrots couldn't visit the hospice, Katie would write letters to his regular friends and have him print a pawprint to sign them
Carrots began visiting the hospice almost three years ago when Katie was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma.
'I'll never forget one evening when we received a call from the Hospice to say there was an older gentleman facing difficult circumstances. He was very distressed and agitated and was requesting a visit from Carrots – so we travelled to the Hospice right away.
'When he saw me with Carrots on my shoulder at the door, he immediately relaxed. Shortly after Carrots snuggled down on the bed with him, the gentleman fell asleep. It was probably the first rest that he had managed to get in 12 hours.
'During the Covid-19 pandemic he has really missed seeing his friends at the hospice, so he's been busy writing letters to some of the lovely people he's met through his therapy work. He signs off all his letters with a paw print of course!'
Carrots is both the only therapy cat among Marie Curie Hospics and the only blind therapy cat in the UK
Carrots is both the only therapy cat within Marie Curie Hospices and the only blind therapy cat in the UK.
Speaking about why the judging panel selected Carrots, Julia Mckecknie-Burke, Blue Cross Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications and one of four judges on this year's panel, says: 'With the Blue Cross Medal we want to celebrate the extraordinary things pets do for us and how they change our lives.
'Carrots is a perfect example of this, and we're honoured to award him the Blue Cross Medal on its 80th anniversary, placing him alongside a long list extraordinary pets that have transformed or saved human lives.'
To celebrate the competition's 80th anniversary, Carrots will have his photo taken and the picture will then be hung as part of an exhibition in London showcasing heroic pets through the ages.
Last year's medal winner was eight-year-old self-taught assistance dog Lily-Rose who saved her owner from choking and alerted her owner when her mother collapsed after a heart attack.
The very first medal was awarded to Major Methuen of the King's Royal Rifles after he rescued some horses from shellfire at a battlefield in France.