updated 07/30/2014 AT 6:45 PM ET
•originally published 07/30/2014 AT 5:30 PM ET
Adopting a flea-bitten rescue cat may have been the best decision Matt Clayton has ever made.
At first, he wanted a dog. But when the Melbourne man went to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals three weeks ago, he and his family brought home Tilly the tabby, who recently detected a potentially devastating fire in his roof.
While Clayton’s wife and children were at school, he attempted to leave their home. Tilly stopped him dead in his tracks.
“She was looking up at me, looking up at the roof – meow, meow, meow,” he told Melbourne’s 7 News.
It turns out the cat was fussing about something very serious: an odorless fire that was brewing in the ceiling of his home. When he touched the spot Tilly was protesting under, smoke came pouring out.
“If Tilly the cat wasn’t here, it certainly would have been a catastrophe for sure,” said firefighter Ken Campbell, who added that within 20 minutes, the compressed straw insulation would have gone up in flames.
Clayton is still in disbelief over what happened, and he expressed his gratitude in a way only an Aussie can. “I never would have thought that the cat would save the house – crikey!” he said.