Several outstanding people and animals — including a cat that helped a soldier in Afghanistan and a 6-year-old victim of the Newtown shootings — will be honored this week at the ASPCA’s Humane Awards.

The ASPCA received hundreds of nominations for the annual awards and selected winners in six categories.

The ceremony on Nov. 21 in New York will recognize both the animals that have made a difference in our lives and the people who are working to improve the lives of animals.

“This year’s Humane Awards winners not only exemplify our mission of preventing cruelty to animals, but bring greater awareness to the unique and meaningful bond between humans and their pets,” ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker said in a news release.

Take a look at some of this year’s winners.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott and KoshkaKoshka, Cat of the Year

Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott met Koshka on a military base while serving in Afghanistan. Concerned for the stray cat’s safety, Knott moved Koshka into his office, where the two bonded.

Then, on Dec. 8, 2011, a suicide bomber targeted a military convoy near Knott’s base and killed two of his friends. Knott said he was struck by depression and was crying in his office when Koshka came to comfort him.

"With tears in my eyes he locked eyes with me, reached out with his paw and pressed it to my lips, then climbed down into my lap curled up and shared the moment with me,” he said.

That was when Knott decided that Koshka couldn’t stay in Afghanistan, and he worked hard to move his feline friend to the U.S. The transport involved a courageous interpreter and nearly $3,000 worth of plane tickets, but Koshka is now stateside and in a loving home.

Catherine V. HubbardCatherine V. Hubbard, Kid of the Year

Six-year-old Catherine loved animals so much that she was often heard whispering, “Tell your friends I am kind,” to animals and insects in hopes they’d visit her again.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Catherine was among the 20 children killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Her parents honored their daughter’s compassion for animals by asking that donations be made to The Animal Center in Newtown. The shelter plans to use the funds to build the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.

Xena and Jonny HickeyXena, Dog of the Year

On Sept. 15, 2012, a malnourished pit bull puppy arrived at the DeKalb Animal Shelter in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Chrissy Kaczynski, a founder of Friends of DeKalb Animals, said she’d never seen such a severe case of neglect, and she took the puppy home to make her last hours as comfortable as possible.

To her surprise, the puppy rebounded, and she named the dog Xena the Warrior Puppy. Kaczynski started a Facebook page to chronicle the dog’s story and help raise funds for her treatment, and Xena's story soon went viral.

Months later, now happy and healthy, Xena met 8-year-old Jonny Hickey, a solitary boy with autism, and the two formed a close bond.

Xena found a permanent home with the Hickey family, and she’s helped bring Jonny out of his shell and improve his verbal abilities. Together, Jonny and Xena are working to spread a message of compassion for both animals and people with autism.

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Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

3 inspiring stories from the annual ASPCA Humane Awards
A stray cat that brought comfort to a soldier in Afghanistan and a rescue dog that bonded with an autistic boy are among this year's winners.