She could not believe what she was seeing, and her heart sank with worry. She had anxiously followed the distressed meows, concerned that the beloved creature was in pain or danger. She stood there ready to help, but what she discovered was not what she expected. And although she could have never imagined this could happen, she knew who to thank for alerting her of the situation. And she would never let herself forget it.
It’s so disheartening to hear an animal in distress, especially when you’re not sure how to help. That’s exactly how she felt. When she heard the frantic meows, she panicked a little. She knew that poor kitty needed help right away. She had no idea just how dire the cat’s situation was. But she knew she had to act fast.
To Irina Lavrova and other residents of her apartment building, Masha was more than a stray cat. The long-haired tabby was calm and sociable, so it wasn’t long before the neighbors adopted her as a communal cat. They all fed her regularly and gave her a few friendly head scratches whenever she approached to say hello–which was quite often. But life for a street cat isn’t all that easy, especially in the town where Masha lived.
Cats are social creatures and Masha is no exception. But most people around the neighborhood would agree that she is a unique feline. She got along great and everyone loved her. But then again, it’s not surprising. The bond between humans and animals is often stronger than the connection humans have with each other. But life as a stray was still pretty difficult.
Masha lives in the city of Obninsk, located in western Russia. While summers there are relatively mild, winters can get really cold. The average winter temperature is 12 °F (-11 °C) and it snows pretty regularly. Needless to say, any animal or person who stays outside during a cold winter night is quite at risk. Luckily for Masha, most of the people in her neighborhood usually took pity on her. And 68-year-old Irina was one of them.
Most people assume that animals have a natural protection against the winter weather. But animal fur has its limitations, particularly when it comes to harsh Russian winters. The chilly weather can damage a cat’s paws too; that’s assuming they don’t freeze first. So, stray cats often rely on strangers to open their homes and their hearts before it’s too late. Fortunately, Masha was looked after and one lady had fallen head over paws in love with her.
Irina and Masha had a sort of mutual routine. Every morning, when Irina stepped outside the building, Masha would come and say hello, rubbing against the old woman’s legs. Irina usually had a treat or two for the cat. During winters, if it was snowing or it was a particularly cold night, the woman would open the door and let Masha take shelter inside the building. But one morning in January, Irina saw Masha do something she’d never witnessed before.
The bond between Masha and Irina was so strong that nothing could come between them. Some people had a tough time understanding the connection these two shared, but Irina would be the first to tell you that Masha made her happy. Thankfully, the two had established a routine that put Irina’s mind at ease during the winter months. After all, stray cats like Masha love their freedom to explore and wander out, but they still needed protection from the cold weather. But then, something odd happened.
That morning, Irina stepped outside the building on her way to run some errands. But this time, Masha didn’t come out to greet her. “Normally she would have come and said hello to me,” she explains. She found it quite odd but went on her way. But she had only taken a few steps down the sidewalk when she heard a strange sound. She stopped on her tracks and focused on the sound to try and hear it better. That’s when she knew what it was.
For Irina, the day had started out gray…in her heart. Masha had not kept up her end of the bargain, and she could sense that something was wrong. She worried about Masha’s well-being. After all, she’s a stray, so who knows what could happen to her out there on the streets? So, she desperately searched for her feline friend. She knew she would never be able to get a wink of sleep at night until she had found her beloved Masha. It turns out, her instincts were right all along.
The sound was a high-pitched wail that grew increasingly distressed. To Irina, it was an unmistakable sound: it was a cat meowing. Immediately she became concerned. In all her time knowing and caring for Masha, she had rarely heard her meow like that. Perhaps it was another cat? But that was unlikely, as Masha was quite territorial so no other cats roamed the old woman’s neighborhood. Determined to solve the mystery, Irina set out to find the source of the meowing.
Animals can’t communicate with words, but they can convey their emotions using facial gestures and sounds. So, when Irina heard a distressful meow in the distance, she knew that it was Masha. She was so familiar with her, that the second she heard those sounds, she knew she was in trouble. But what could’ve possibly happened to her? Was she attacked? Irina had to find her and see what had left Masha in such a state of distress.
Irina turned around and followed the meowing, trying to figure out where it was coming from. The sound took her around her building and into the back alleys. As she rounded the corner, she spotted the conspicuous long-haired tabby coat of Masha. The cat, however, didn’t come to the woman–she stayed put. Irina feared the worst. “She is very placid and friendly, so when I heard her meowing, I thought that perhaps she had injured herself,” she recalls. Then she came closer and saw something that made her jaw drop.
Masha would come to Irina right away if she could, but it was obvious that she couldn’t. Something was wrong with her little ball of fur. The kitty made no attempts to approach her. She didn’t even move from her spot. Irina figured that something horrible had happened to her. This was the only thing that would explain why Masha was ignoring her.
Masha was inside a cardboard box, which Irina didn’t find odd at that moment. Masha loved sitting in boxes and the old woman put out a few for her every once in a while. But as she got closer, Irina realized Masha was not alone inside that box. There was another creature in there with her, and the woman almost fainted when she discovered what it was.
What on Earth was Masha doing in a box outside of the building all by herself? Cats are known for playing around in boxes, but Irina knew that Masha wasn’t in a playful mood. She wasn’t moving either. But then she noticed that she wasn’t alone. In fact, there was something moving inside the box and it left Irina completely paralyzed. How could this be?
Inside the cardboard box, Irina found Masha curled up next to a human baby. The old woman was stumped. “You can imagine my shock when I saw her lying in a box next to a baby,” she says. Irina froze for a second, not knowing what to do. Then she snapped out of it and called another neighbor to come and help. She picked up the baby while the neighbor grabbed the box and they went inside the building. But not without Masha’s protestations.
What kind of heartless monster would abandon a baby right smack in the middle of winter? It wasn’t just shocking. It was unbelievable. At first, Irina thought she was hallucinating. She refused to believe someone could be so cruel. But was the baby really abandoned, or had it taken a cue from Masha and just strayed away from her family?
Masha seemed to be quite protective of the baby. “She was so worried about where we were taking the baby,” recalls Irina. “She ran right behind us, meowing. She was really a rational creature.” The old woman hurried to get some blankets to warm up the baby, but when she touched him she realized he was already quite warm. That’s when she realized what Masha had done.
Masha might not have wings or a halo, but she was definitely this baby’s guardian angel. She protected the child when it had no one, and Masha knew exactly what to do to get people’s attention. She used her meowing to send a distress call. She could have kept on walking and left the child on her own, but she didn’t. She took care of it, which left everyone so surprised.
It was clear to Irina that Masha had deliberately climbed inside the cardboard box to keep the baby warm, and meowed incessantly as a call for help. “Clearly her mothering instincts had taken over and she wanted to protect the child,” the old woman explained. Irina and her neighbor then rushed the child to the hospital to get him checked up. Luckily, the news was good.
We’ve all heard stories of how animals are the best caretakers when it comes to children. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe. They’ll even breastfeed them, if necessary. It seems that taking care of others is embedded in their DNA. Thankfully, Masha’s actions had a profound impact on the life of the child, and it was positively amazing.
After an examination by doctors, the 12-week-old baby boy was declared fit and healthy. “The baby had only been outside for a few hours and thanks to Masha … he was not damaged by the experience,” said a hospital spokesman. But the identity of his parents and the motives behind his abandonment remained a mystery–especially given how he was found.
No one was sure how the baby wound up abandoned. Had something happened to the child’s parents? Is that why he was all alone in the cold? It became a mystery that everyone wanted to see solved. It’s not like it was every day that a stray cat ended up taking care of a human baby. The whole situation was extremely confusing, and everyone wanted to know where the baby had come from.
“He was well-dressed with a little hat, and whoever left him here had even left a few nappies and some baby food,” recalls Irina, as she wondered why someone would leave a baby alone in the streets in the middle of winter. Now it was up to city officials to try and track down the people responsible. Meanwhile, a neighborhood folk hero was born.
We’re not surprised to hear someone left their baby to endure the harsh winter all by itself. Sadly, we’ve gotten used to reading stories that make us question our faith in humanity. Has the world simply gone nuts? It certainly looks that way. But we’re glad to see that Masha the cat was able to do what this baby’s parents couldn’t. In the process, she proved she had more humanity than most folks. And for everyone in the neighborhood, Masha was more than a guardian angel.
After hearing the news, local residents hailed Masha as a hero. “Everyone in the block is very proud of her,” says Irina. “We have all spoiled her rotten by giving her her favorite food.” The story was taken up by local news outlets and it caught everyone’s attention. Masha became the most famous cat in Obninsk, and she even inspired people to help, too.
Everyone was elated to hear that their favorite stray cat was a hero. It just comes to show you that not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they’re just covered in fur. But animals have a way of making us question humanity altogether. Hopefully, people will use Masha’s actions as a blueprint to become better members of society.
“I think the case is unique,” said a nurse at the hospital where the baby was taken. “We have received lots of feedback from other residents and sympathizers, who are willing to help, asking if food, toys and other things are needed.” Perhaps his parents will never be found, but thanks to Masha, it looks like this little boy is going to be ok.
We often forget that animals are sensitive creatures, and they’re also extremely smart. Some dogs can smell cancer or a potential threat at the airport, and pigs and cats serve a higher purpose too as emotional support animals. Decency and kindness might be growing dim within the human heart, but thankfully, we have animals that can show us the way back to humanity.