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This Windham Paramedic’s Cat Survived a Tornado and Became Famous

May 18, 2022


As a newborn kitten, Toto survived a tornado – so it makes sense that he’s cool with his adult life being a whirlwind.

On June 1, 2011, a massive F3 tornado struck western and central Massachusetts, leaving a 37-mile path of destruction from Westfield to Charlton. One town, Brimfield, was particularly hard hit, with 140 homes either destroyed or damaged.

The following day, as crews were clearing debris, a tiny newborn kitten was found. Brought to the Brimfield fire station, the kitten met Jonathan Hall, a paramedic who was on duty. Hall and other EMS personnel cared for the kitten, whom they named Toto, throughout the day, feeding him milk through a syringe. The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) was in town to help with displaced animals, and the first responders turned the kitten over to them for care.

Jonathan & Toto

But that kitten had squirmed his way into Jonathan’s heart, and six weeks later, Hall’s wife adopted him from the ARL and brought him back home to Brimfield.

Hall, who is a paramedic at Windham Hospital in addition to his work in Brimfield, decided Toto’s story was worth sharing, and so in 2012 he wrote a children’s book called “Toto the Tornado Kitten.” He received a grant from a local bank to publish the book, and he found an illustrator named Carol Ruzicka from Vermont through Craigslist to do the drawings.

His plan was to sell the book for $10 a copy and donate all the money (after expenses) to the Animal Rescue League of Boston and the Foundation for TJO Animals.

To date, Hall and Toto have donated more than $70,000 by selling more than 12,000 copies of that book and a 2015 sequel, “Oh Toto, Where Did You Go?” Hall and Toto travel around New England to libraries, fire stations, schools, nursing homes, even a meteorologists convention, speaking about what happened in 2011 and selling the books.

Toto Cover

“I thought this would be a silly, fun little project,” Hall said of his idea to write the first book. “I thought I would sell a few copies to people in town and it would help us heal after all the trauma Brimfield went through. I printed 200 copies. They sold out right away and it’s been crazy ever since.” Toto has more than 6,000 followers on Facebook.

Toto loves the crowds, Hall said. He wears a harness and leash when they go out, and he loves to hang around the fire station, visit the bank or spend time with the Windham paramedics. “He’s kind of like a dog,” Hall said. “Nothing fazes him. He loves the kids.”

Learn More About Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

Hartford HealthCare’s Division of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provides medical authorization, oversight, continuing education for area pre-hospital providers and support for EMS providers in their roles and to improve the transition of care between prehospital and in-hospital providers.

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