A former soldier has told how his pet cat saved his life by clawing at his face to alert him to a blaze that was ripping through his home.
Matthew Slater, 49, was woken in the early hours of the morning to find his cat Weller ‘clawing at his face’ and a wall of smoke and heat in his bedroom.
He jumped out of bed and rang 999 and was guided out of his flame-ridden home by firemen using breathing apparatus.
But though attempts were made to rescue his valiant moggy, the police later recovered her body on the ground floor of his one-storey terrace.
He said: “I believe 100 percent she saved my life – I would never have woken up without her.”
Mr Slater, who now works as a builder, only became aware that the fire was advancing through his York property at 2:30 am when five-year-old Weller dived onto his bed.
He said: “The cat was clawing at my face, and I remember trying to push her off, because I thought, ‘What’s she doing that for?’
“Then I opened my eyes and saw all the smoke and thought, ‘She’s obviously trying to get me up.’”
By this point, the fire that had started in the kitchen due to faulty wires in his fridge had rapidly progressed into his bedroom, leaving black scorch marks across the walls.
He said: “It was just black, all the walls were stained black, and I could see the glow coming up the stairs.”
“I ran to the landing to see what the heat was like, and it was so bad that it just pushed me back.
“So, I crawled back into the bedroom as I was starting to feel the effects by this point, and I just opened the bedroom window.
Mr Slater fell unconscious several times due to smoke inhalation, but finally, he managed to phone 999 while leaning out of his first-floor bedroom window.
He said: “I was out, I was going, I was barely conscious at that time.
“I said to the woman on the phone, ‘If you’re not here in minutes, I’m gone!’ – I honestly felt that bad.”
The fire brigade arrived just in time, and after kicking down the door, they brought Mr Slater to safety using their breathing equipment.
But when he got out of the house, he noticed Weller was missing.
He said: “I was telling the police, telling the fire brigade, ‘My cat’s in there! Get my cat!’”
“I can’t remember doing this, but apparently I tried to get back in, but they obviously stopped me.
“Then I got put in the ambulance, and I was just worried about her.”
Mr Slater spent five hours in hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, and it was here where he heard the sad news of Weller’s passing.
He said: “The police actually rang me and said: “Look, we’ve found her. She’s dead, unfortunately.”
“She was found downstairs, so she must have found her way down there at some point.
“The smoke had obviously got to her by then.”
“They actually wrapped her up and put her in a box so I wouldn’t have to see her when I got home, which is nice.”
On returning to his property today, Mr Slater said he felt “heartbroken” while surveying the damage.
He said: “The electricity was off. It was black everywhere. Everything had melted. All my possessions and everything had disappeared.
He added: “My home insurance literally ran out two weeks ago – the odds of that are just mental.
“I meant to renew it, but it just slipped my mind.”
But despite the financial loss, without Weller’s intervention, Mr Slater believes that he would not have walked out of the property alive.
“They said to me the amount of smoke I took in – and they looked down my throat – I wouldn’t have woken up naturally by myself.”
“It was already too far gone, which is amazing isn’t it?”
He added: “I’ve had dogs in the past that have done things that you can’t explain.
“It was probably to save herself, probably, because she needed me to let her out or whatever – but I reckon most of it was to get me up.”
Mr Weller has ordered a headstone for Weller, who he had since she was a kitten and described as a “great cat”, to commemorate her passing.
His friends have also set up a Go Fund Me page where he hopes to recoup some of the costs from the fire.
Visit gofundme.com/f/help-matthew-slater-after-deverstating-fire? to donate.