When Glen and Joan Bowley of Fort Erie, Ontario adopted 8-year-old tortoiseshell Gigi two years ago, they weren’t really looking for another cat, but when a friend forwarded an email mentioning a cat who needed a new home due to a death in her family, they couldn’t get the pictures of the beautiful ginger-faced long-haired cat out of their minds. Little did they know then that one day, Gigi would save their home from a fire.

“She looked so striking in those photos,” says Glen. “At first glance, she looks like a calico with a white chest, white feet and ginger face, but the rest of her coloring is pure tortoiseshell.” After thinking about it for a day or two, Joan and Glen agreed to meet Gigi at the home of a doggy day care owner. “When they brought her into the room with us, we were surprised how big she was,” says Glen. “We were also impressed with how calm, placid and friendly she was.” Gigi did not seem bothered by the one dog that was there, even though she was not used to dogs.


Who rescued who?

Glen and Joan took Gigi home the same day. They went through the recommended slow and gradual introduction with their two other cats and their Silky Terrier, but the process only took one day, which Glen attributes to Gigi’s calm temperament and her almost magical effect on the other animals. Even Kasey, Glen’s soul cat, a tortie he calls his “Warrior Queen” due to her dominant personality, accepted the newcomer readily. Sadly, Glen did not know at the time that he would lose Kasey three months later. “I may have rescued Gigi, but Gigi rescued me during that hard time,” says Glen. Glen fondly calls Gigi his “Empress.”


Gigi’s original family found her one cold February day when she was less than a year old. She was outside, hiding under a discarded couch. She had recently had a litter of kittens, but they died from the severe cold. They took her in and nursed her back to health. Glen is sure she had a very good life with them, until her original family suffered their own tragedy.

The photo that came with the email that started it all

Gigi to the rescue

Last week, Joan, who runs a business out of their home, was preoccupied, working on her computer. Gigi came to see her, which she often does. She’s a social cat who loves company. However, that day, she was behaving in a way that was unusual for her: she seemed upset, and was insistent on getting attention.

When Joan got up, Gigi took off for the kitchen. Joan followed her. There, on the electric stove burner, was a stainless steel kettle that had been forgotten and boiled dry. The burner was on the verge of turning red. “It was a lucky break that the Empress had become agitated,” says Glen.

Even after Joan turned off the burner and removed the kettle, Gigi stayed in the kitchen for a while, looking at the stove. “I guess she wanted to make sure all was well,” says Glen.

Joan called Glen at work to tell him just how smart Gigi was.

“We are very glad we took a chance and brought the “ginger-faced” tortie home,” says Glen.

All photos ©Glen Bowley, used with permission

20 Comments on Tortoiseshell Cat Prevents House Fire

  1. I hope Gigi is going strong and has continued to amaze you! I clicked on this story because your cat was a spitting image of my Min (we called ours a “norvegian forest cat” which of course she was not). She was also in charge of telling us when something was different — she would tell me when the water was boiling on the stove, when we left the light on in the basement, when her brother had opened the back door and left himself and the dog out… We had her for 19 years old, and had adopted her as an adult. I am so grateful for the amazing cat we had, and wishing yours a healthy and happy life. Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane… Gigi is indeed amazing!

  2. My beautiful cat Oreo an aegean type cat (white with black markings) was meowing loudly in my kitchen by the rear soor a few summers ago. I finally opened the rear door and smelled smoke coming from basement area. Apparenly a gardner plugged in a bbq starter hanging from a large wooden beam by mistake. He thought he was plugging in a light for some reason. Maybe he was drunk or atleast extremely careless. This metal bbq electric hot starter rod was leaning ona wooden beam and it had begun to began to burn through a very dry main house beam in ceiling. As soon as we unplugged it and sprayed thebeam with a fire stopper chemical my and then cat stoppedcrying by door. He saved us and house too from a serious fire. He also inspects plumbing and loves to monitor the health of all myfamily by checking their pulses especially if simeone is getting a cold, fever orhas a cough. He is a God send and has notified us of plumbing issues, leaks, clogs, etc. way before they become worse. If he stares at a pipe or wall or a sink we know we have to check it out for potential issues. Usually he is right.

  3. What a wonderful story about a very special cat! Do you know what kind of cat she is? She definitely looks like a Siberian Forest Cat and has the personality of one too.

    • Funny you should say that she looks like a Siberian, I have thought that too, and she does share some traits.

      However, she doesn’t quite fit the entire breed description and I don’t think Siberians have been in North America long enough for the heritage to make it to our small town, here.

      Our climate can be similar in Canada, perhaps she was a “parallel development” 😉

      She is a very nice natured cat, if I go outside, she usually waits by the door for me to come back in. She is quite a treat to have around.

  4. What an amazing Tortie girl the beautiful Gigi is. Glen you lost your soul cat, Kasey, the Warrior Queen, who we all loved and still do. You have Gigi now who takes second to none. She is a lifesaver. I would give her extra treats, and lots of petting. Thanks to Gigi all your family, wife and fur babies are ok.

    • Thanks to everyone for their comments, and to Ingrid for posting the story and pictures.

      Gigi is a nice looking cat, who needed a home and had a calm demeanour. The big surprise was how intelligent she is; she responds to quite a few words and also seems to be somewhat empathic. She usually comes to the door about the time I come home, I don’t know how she tells time.

      She is a “nurse cat” who will sit with people or other animals that are not feeling well, she is also quite concerned when one of the other cats is in a carrier to go to the vet.

      She has really come with a lot of nice surprises, I am very glad we gave her a home.

  5. Yes, Ingrid, I have. In another case, when I was young, I had a fellow over and we were dancing. My Siamese tried to jump on him (attack)!! Now that is truly weird. Actually, I had an ironing board set up and that’s where the cat jumped from. (I don’t know why I hadn’t put it away – crazy.)

  6. Thanks for sharing that great story!!!! So glad they rescued Gigi & she rescued them! My childhood chihuahua saved my life when a vaporizer was smoldering at 3 a.m. & waited until it was out & also literally out of the house before settling down and approving that all was ok. Like Dianne, we have a (part) Burmese who warns us of anything in our yard we need to know.

    Thanks for this heartwarming story!

  7. I absolutely LOVE stories like this – and I have a special place in my heart for PEOPLE like this too – who aren’t afraid to welcome a new member who’s in need, to their family. The rewards are endless!! I know this firsthand because I’ve never turned a new member (stray) away. My furry family is huge now and each have their own personality & special story that touches my heart in ways that only a pet lover could really know and understand! They are all irreplaceable in my heart and I’ve never regretted rescuing any of them!! They’ve brought Loads of love to my family and we treasure every one of them!

    I’m so happy for Gigi and her forever home! She deserves that! Awesome article!! 🙂

  8. Gigi is just stunningly beautiful, isn’t she … and a smart cookie as well … ! I’m sure Gigi got some extra treats and love that night!

    • One of my son’s cats warned him of a fire that had started in his garage. He had cleaned out his fireplace, and unbeknown to him, there were burning embers in the wastebasket he had placed in his garage. His kitty saved his house from burning down. Not only that, I had a Burmese cat, Burgee, who warned me of a peeping tom by sitting in the window growling. We looked out, and there was a guy out there!! My husband yelled at him and the guy ran away. Cats are great at security. You just have to pay attention to them when they start behaving weirdly.

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