Autistic Loanhead boy’s feline companion in line to become top cat

Loanhead autistic boy Finley with his cat Chi.
Loanhead autistic boy Finley with his cat Chi.

A cat from Loanhead who helps an eight-year-old boy with autism cope with everyday life has been named as a finalist in Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2019.

‘Chi’ beat hundreds of entries to take her place as one of three cats in the Furr-ever Friends category, celebrating the special bond between cats and children. The 18-month-old cat was selected in recognition of how she helps Finley Black, who has autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, cope with the challenges of everyday life.

Mum Jo (35) said: Finley can experience a great deal of social anxiety, stress and isolation. He frequently finds the world overwhelming and has a tendency not to want to leave the house during weekends and school holidays so he can recuperate.

“We decided to get a cat as we thought it would be good to have a companion around the home. But we really had no idea just what an amazing therapy Chi would prove to be for Finley.

“She calms him when he’s over-stimulated and gives him a listening ear when no one else understands his unique mind. When he wants to hide from the world, she’ll stay with him and be that connection he needs until he’s ready to emerge.

“They share an unconditional love and that non-judgemental relationship means the world to Finley. He can connect with her on a much more comfortable level than he often can with other people.

“What’s particularly lovely is hearing him talk about how much he loves Chi, with all sorts of different people. His joy at seeing his love reciprocated, and the way he shares about their unique friendship, has helped others understand a bit more of his world. And on the days that they don’t, Chi is waiting at the window for him to come home and tell her all about it.

“We know of several other parents of children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) who have adopted rescue cats after hearing about Chi and Finley. Chi really is an ambassador for cats and helping more people understand what wonderful therapy they can be for children with ASD.”

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on August 8 in London.

Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, organised by the UK’s largest cat charity and sponsored by PURINA®, is an annual celebration of the real-life stories of heroism, loyalty and companionship in the feline world.

If Chi wins her category, she will also be in with a chance of being crowned National Cat of the Year, following in the paw prints of previous winner Theo, who helped his owner Charlotte Dixon survive a potentially fatal blood clot.

Cats Protection’s awards organiser Kate Bunting said: “It’s incredibly touching to hear of the hugely positive effect Chi has had on Finley’s life and how their friendship has inspired other parents of children with ASD to consider adopting a rescue cat. We hope their story will continue to help many more people understand just how important cats can be in people’s lives, for all sorts of reasons.”

Calum Macrae, Regional Director UK & Ireland at PURINA®, said: “The National Cat Awards is a wonderful celebration of everything we love about cats, in particular shining a spotlight on the incredible bond that can exist between pets and owners. At Purina, we’re passionate about enriching the lives of pets and the people who love them, so we’re thrilled to support the National Cat Awards once again this year.

“All the finalists are truly inspiring and go to show the hugely positive impact cats can have on people’s lives, for all sorts of reasons. From providing fun and friendship to being there for comfort and companionship, and even to sometimes saving lives. It’s no wonder that cats have earned a special place in our hearts and homes.”

Each category winner will receive a trophy, a £100 pet store voucher, a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine and a three-month supply of PURINA® cat food.