When it comes to tear-jerking acts of loyalty, dogs make cats look bad. But that doesn't mean felines aren't impressive in their own right. These resourceful, independent-minded pets have often showed "incredible" feats of courage and cunning, whether in the face of danger, or in traveling impossible distances to return home. As Dr. Paul Maza tells The New York Times, "Cats are very adaptable." Here, a look at seven who beat the odds:
1) Jessie: Trekking home
After moving clear across Australia with her owner, Sheree Gale, a tabby cat named Jessie disappeared. A year later, Jessie showed up at her old home, 1,865 miles away. "I can't explain it," Gale says. "She hates getting into cars, so I think she walked." Gale figured that Jessie deserved to stay where she pleased — especially after crossing a barren desert — and the cat was taken in by a former neighbor.
2) Buddy: Rescuing his owner
Cats aren't known for sticking their necks out for their human companions, but one New York feline was willing to play the hero. Carl Kryszak was sound asleep in his favorite living room chair early one morning when his Long Island apartment went up in flames, and filled with smoke. Buddy, his black-and-white cat, jumped on Kryszak's lap, alerting him to the danger, and the two escaped without injury. The cat's heroism surprised local firefighters who said dogs are usually the brave ones, not felines.
3) Jack: Capturing Americans' hearts
Jack, a five-year-old Norwegian Forest cat, escaped his travel carrier at JFK airport on August 25, 2011. American Airlines searched for the cat for two months, even hiring a pet detective. When hope seemed lost, the long-haired cat crashed through the airport's ceiling tile in Terminal 8. The weak and terrified cat, who quickly became a media star, was rushed to a veterinary hospital while his owner was flown in. Unfortunately, Jack died Nov. 6, 2011.
4) Andrea: Testing those 9 lives
Andrea may have been doomed, but she was also determined. After 30 days in a New York shelter, the black stray was sent to the gas chamber. The first attempt didn't work and Andrea was pushed back in. Seemingly dead, the cat was wrapped in a bag and placed in a cooler to await pickup and disposal. When workers opened the cooler some 45 minutes later, they heard a meow. Sure, she was scared, and covered in her own vomit, but Andrea was alive and so rewarded with foster care. She now spends her days as the "spokescat against the cruel use of the gas chamber for animals."
5) Sammie: Sticking it out with strays
All Karen Hansen did was turn her back for a second and Sammie, her 3-year-old cat, was gone. "He just disappeared," Hansen said. "It was heart-wrenching." The broken-hearted owner covered her Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood in fliers and set up a "massive" internet campaign. After a year of searching and several false IDs, Hansen was reunited with her beloved pet, who was picked out of a pack of strays freeloading from a kind stranger.
6) Willow: The cross-country hitchhiker
This extraordinary tale begins five years ago in Boulder, Colo., when a calico cat named Willow fled its humble family home for the Big Apple. Or, that's how it would seem. After showing up in a New York City shelter in September, the cat's microchip revealed her Colorado roots. While the family was overjoyed to have Willow back, animal experts were perplexed by the adventurous cat's ability to trek 1,800 miles unscathed.
7) Dixie: The cat came back
When Gilly Delany of Birmingham England was told in 1999 that her cat Dixie was killed by an oncoming car, she didn't believe it. Delany and her husband even opted to forgo a move in case the cat came back. Lo and behold, Dixie did… eight years later. Shelter workers found the cat wandering but a mile from her owners' home and returned Dixie to the ecstatic couple.