Mittens is purrfect friend for girl with autism and brain tumour

Faith Downey (11) with her cat Mittens. Pic: Cats Protection/PA Wire
Faith Downey (11) with her cat Mittens. Pic: Cats Protection/PA Wire

A cat, who helps a young Portadown girl with autism cope with a complex brain tumour, has been shortlisted for an award which celebrates tales of friendship between cats and children.

Mittens beat hundreds of other entries to take his place as one of three contenders in the Furr-ever Friends category of Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2017.

The black and white moggy was selected as a finalist in recognition of how he helps Faith Downey (11), who lives on the Cushenny Road.

Having autism means Faith has to learn to manage significant social, emotional and communication issues. Despite finding it difficult to connect with people, Faith has formed a close and loving bond with Mittens.

Mum Elizabeth explained, “Living with autism can be very hard, and Faith faces lots of challenges. Earlier this year, she was also found to have a brain tumour, and doctors are still deciding how to treat this.

“Faith finds it difficult to interact with people, yet has formed an amazing bond with Mittens. When she’s sad, Mittens will curl up on her and he is never bothered by her meltdowns.

“The difference in Faith’s emotional state after spending time with Mittens is remarkable, and no professional or family member can create such a positive change.”

She added, “Faith has also learnt to respond to Mitten’s body language, which is a remarkable skill for an autistic child. She’s also become more aware of the world around her, and has organised her own fundraising events to help Cats Protection.

“Through Mittens, Faith has learnt so many new skills, but also has a constant, reliable and fun friend by her side. He really is a one in a million and we all love him to bits.”

If Mittens wins his category, he will also be in with a chance of being crowned National Cat of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the ceremony at The Savoy Hotel in London on Thursday, August 3.

Cats Protection’s awards organiser Kate Bunting said, “Mittens and Faith’s story is a truly inspiring one, and just goes to show how important cats can be to family life. It’s wonderful to hear how Faith’s bond with Mittens has helped her on so many levels, from being a fun and playful friend, to helping her understand the world around her.”