A Heroic Cat Named Tiger Saved its Owner From the Gatlinburg Wildfires

Meghan Overdeep
Trevor Cates, walks through the smoldering remains of the fellowship hall of his church, the Banner Missionary Baptist Church as he inspects damage after a widfire November 29, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Brian Blanco

There’s a very small group of people who can say a pet cat saved their lives. Now, 60-year-old Mark Burger is one of them.

When the Gatlinburg, Tenn. resident heard about the threat of wildfires on Nov. 28, he figured he didn’t have anything to worry about. If things became dangerous, he would get an emergency alert on his cellphone, he reasoned. But a warning never came — at least not in the traditional sense.

For Burger, a local business owner, it was a normal day spent relaxing in his mountainside condo with his Siamese cat Tiger. Tiger was given to Burger by his son Tanner, who found him abandoned as a kitten—a debt the feline must have been destined to repay.

"I never did get the evacuation alert and Monday the fire seemed far enough away from downtown and the condos on hillsides nearby that I thought it was likely it would be contained before it threatened the city," Burger told USA Today. Burger didn't have a go-bag packed in his condo, which is at the end of a winding road on a mountain ridge.

Around 8 p.m that day, Tiger started acting strange, Burger told the newspaper. The normally calm cat would stare at the curtained windows, then pace back and forth in front of the door. He would also run up to Burger and try to attract his attention, then race back to the door.

"I figured I might as well take out the trash and take a look to see if an animal like a raccoon might be making Tiger nervous," Burger said. "When I got across the lot, I could see the flames all over the mountains across from my condo."

Burger hurried inside, grabbed some clothes, his heart medicine and Tiger and jumped in the car to flee the inferno. In the end, his condo and his store survived. More importantly, so did he and Tiger.

"He's a pretty great cat," Burger told USA Today.

Pretty great, indeed.