A brother and sister who comfort those receiving end-of-life care and an anxious companion to a young boy with autism are among the felines nominated for this year’s National Cat Awards.
The annual awards, organized by the UK’s largest cat charity, Cats Protection, recognize the bond between owners and their whiskered companions.
The four competition categories – Cat Colleagues, Furr-ever Friends, Most Caring Cat and Outstanding Rescue Cat – will be judged by a series of famous faces, including businesswoman Deborah Meaden, England footballer Ellen White and comedian Bob Mortimer .
The winning pets are due to be announced in August and will receive a trophy, a £200 pet shop voucher and a one-year subscription to The Cat magazine from Cats Protection.
Siblings Jasper and Willow are part of the team at St Peter & St James Hospice in Haywards Heath, West Sussex – visiting patients in end-of-life care and helping their families feel more relaxed.
Hospice manager Jackie Manville said they had a ‘hugely positive effect on day-to-day life’, adding: ‘We spend a lot of time sitting and looking, and having our cats to pet really helps, which makes the hospice more welcoming.
“Jasper in particular seems to know intuitively when patients are having a hard day or need company.
“He will jump on the bed and sit quietly purring. It’s enough to put a smile on your face and help people relax when they’re feeling tense and worried.
Among the nominees in the Furr-Ever Friends category is Chicken, the companion of 11-year-old autistic and anxious Elliot Abery.
The couple live in the town of Thatcham, Berkshire.
Elliot’s mum Jenny, 45, said: “Elliot and Chicken share a special bond unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
“When he’s had a tough day or is dealing with anxiety, talking about chicken has a calming effect on him.
“Chicken and Elliot are just awesome together and I really hope their story helps highlight how amazing cats can be for people with autism.”
Marley, who works at the Apuldram Center in Chichester, West Sussex, is nominated in the Cat Colleagues category.
The center helps adults with learning difficulties, and Marley spends her days attending staff meetings and comforting the center’s clients.
Staff member Richard Manning said: “We have many activities for people who come to the day centre, such as arts and crafts, gardening and dancing – and Marley is stuck in all of them. .”
Kate Bunting, organizer of Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, said: “Cats are amazing pets for all kinds of homes, and this year’s finalists truly show that there is a cat for everyone.