Trooper the cat has loved one woman more than anyone else in the world — 96-year-old Sarah Whaley.
In 2014, Alexis Hackney and her family found Trooper while flipping a house — they heard her meowing from the basement and went to investigate.
“She was in the wall, and my mom and sister had to get a sledgehammer, and bust out the sheetrock and get her,” Hackney told The Dodo. “She was about 2 weeks old. Her eyes were barely open.”
They couldn’t find Trooper’s mother, so they took the tiny kitten to their home in Tallahassee, Florida, which they shared with Whaley, Hackney’s grandmother.
“My grandmother actually lived with us for 18 years,” Hackney said. “She moved down here to babysit me and my sisters when we were little. She just kind of stayed. She was definitely a major part of our household. She was the matriarch.”
Not only did Whaley adore her grandchildren, but she also adored the family’s cats. And she formed a particularly close bond with Trooper.
“My grandmother would bottle-feed her, and she’d sit there and talk to her, and tell her how cute and sweet she is,” Hackney said. “Trooper’s the kind of cat where she has one person, and that person was definitely my grandmother.”
While everyone could see how much Trooper loved Whaley, and Whaley loved Trooper, the family didn’t get a true sense of their connection until Whaley became very ill.
“My grandmother started going more downhill around Christmas [last year], and we started noticing her [Trooper] being there all the time,” Hackney said.
Trooper mostly slept on the bed with Whaley, but she also brought her gifts from around the house.
“She was never the kind to pick up toys and move them around the house or anything, but when my grandma couldn’t move around as much anymore, she would bring stuff to her — whatever she’d find on the floor, like socks or a straw,” Hackney said. “As she started getting sicker and sicker and sicker, she increased the amount of stuff that she was bringing. She’d go into my brother’s room and just grab his socks and haul them downstairs and lay them on the floor.”
“You could just look into her eyes and tell that she knew what was going on, and she was very upset about it,” Hackney added.
Sometimes, Whaley would have a panic attack, and Trooper would hurry to her side to comfort her.
“Trooper would run in there and hop on the bed, and she would just start petting her and feeling her, and she’d calm down,” Hackney said. “When my grandmother started getting to the point where she couldn’t communicate anymore, I think that having Trooper there was definitely calming for her.”
And nothing seemed to scare Trooper away from Whaley’s bedside.
“Whenever my grandmother was going through the process of passing away, she became very disoriented,” Hackney said. “Trooper was always by her side — always there — and she would accidentally hit her or squeeze her too hard, and Trooper would never fight back. She would just jump down, wait for my grandma to calm down, and she would jump right back into bed with her. If we had done that, it would have been all over. We would have been a bloody mess, but she loved my grandma, and she never, ever scratched her or bit her or anything.”
“She loved my grandma so much, and you could tell by the way she would look at her when she was sick,” Hackney added. “It just broke your heart to see all of this pain in her eyes.”
When Whaley passed away in March — a few days before her 97th birthday — Trooper was inconsolable.
“She didn’t want to be around my grandma’s body,” Hackney said. “I had taken her in there to show her that Grandma is not coming back … because if they don’t know, they’ll look for them, and I wanted her to understand that our grandma is not there anymore. But she ran away and got underneath my parents’ bed. And after they’d taken my grandma’s body, she stopped eating. She’s not a very vocal cat, but she was just walking around the house, crying all of the time.”
Trooper is doing a lot better now, Hackney explained, although she still goes into Whaley’s room, and leaves socks and other objects on the floor.
“You can tell that she definitely misses Grandma,” Hackney said.
Hackney recently shared the story of her grandmother’s bond with Trooper on a closed Facebook page called Cool Cats Group — and the post went viral.
“I think that cats have a very bad reputation when it comes to people not thinking that they actually love us,” Hackney said. “So when I saw Trooper so dedicated and so loyal to my grandmother, I really wanted to share that because people don’t understand that cats may not be like dogs, but they definitely do have emotion, and they do have feelings and they love us very much. They just aren’t as good as showing us as dogs are. But they definitely do love us.”