The Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens

In 1996, a cat was caring for her 4-week-old kittens in an abandoned Brooklyn garage when fire broke out.  With her eyes blistered shut, her paws burned, and her coat singed, Scarlett, as she was later named for her burned red skin and patches of red fur, carried her five kittens to safety, one by one.

Firefighters saw her touching the noses of each kitten to reassure herself they were all safe. She then collapsed, unconscious.

Firefighter David Giannelli took the little family to an animal shelter, where the mother and babies received treatment. One of the kittens died of a virus a month after the blaze. Scarlett was diagnosed with a heart murmur and would require ongoing care for the rest of her life.

After receiving hundreds of letters from people who wanted to adopt the cats, a committee at the North Shore Animal League picked three families.  Two kittens, Oreo and Smokey, went to Debbie Palmarozzo of Miller Place, Long Island.  The two other kittens, Samsara and Panuki went with Corinne and Ginette Vercillo of Port Washington, Long Island.

Scarlett was adopted by Karen Wellen. Karen's letter had caught the committee's eye because she told of losing her own cat years earlier shortly after she herself was hurt in a car accident.  "The physical and emotional pain I suffered made me more compassionate, and I vowed if ever allowed another cat in my home, it would be one with special needs," Karen wrote.


Scarlett passed away in October 2008

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