Adopted Cat Performs Lifesaving Carotid Massage

Rachael knew that her adopted cat, Torty, was in tune with her wellbeing. But she would later discover that Torty’s calming kneading was saving her life.

Rachael + Torty

Rachael knew that she was ready to love a feline friend when she adopted Torty. But she never imagined that Torty would have an innate ability to help stabilize Rachael’s heart rate during an undiagnosed cardiac event—an action that would save her pet mom’s life.

"My sweet Torty would always come over to me and make biscuits (knead) on my neck, and my heart rate would go back to normal."

On March 28, 2016, after I’d lost my childhood cat a couple of months prior, I decided that I was ready to love another kitty again. Union County Animal Protection Society (UCAPS) is well known throughout El Dorado for how amazing they are, so I went there and described the kind of cat I was wanting. Tanja Jackson told me the cats were all at playtime, but she predicted I would choose Torty—and she was right. 

Shortly after adopting Torty, I noticed that my heart rate would shoot up to around 200 beats per minute. I would feel panicked during this time, but my sweet Torty would always come over to me and make biscuits (knead) on my neck and my heart rate would go back to normal. It turns out I had a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia. Torty was pressing on my neck just right to do what’s medically called a carotid massage—therefore converting me back into a normal heart rhythm.

Here I was thinking my sweet baby just wanted to love on me, but he was actually saving my life.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Rachael won Union County Animal Protection Society in El Dorado, Arkansas a 2021 Love Stories award.