Remember when we wrote about Iris Grace, the incredibly talented 5-year-old girl with autism who paints beautiful pictures? It turns out that she has a behind-the-scenes helper who’s also worthy of praise – that’s Thula, her therapeutic cat.

Thula, who is almost 1 year old, is a Maine Coon. This breed is known as the intelligent and gentle giant of the cat world and though she’s still small and young, Thula does not disappoint. Her gentle and compassionate character is especially important for Iris, a young girl growing up with autism; “Thula has lowered [Iris’] daily anxieties in life and keeps Iris calm,” Iris’ mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson, told Bored Panda, “but equally has the effect of encouraging her to be more social. She will talk more to Thula, saying little phrases like ‘sit cat.’

Carter-Johnson, had almost given up on the search for a therapeutic animal companion for her daughter. When Iris happened to connect with a Siberian cat that her family would up cat-sitting for Christmas, however, she realized that she “just hadn’t found the right animal yet.” For more info about Thula and Iris, read more of Carter-Johnson’s interview with Bored Panda!

What ever activity we are doing Thula is there and wants to help and be involved,” Arabella Carter-Johnson told Bored Panda. “Waterplay, playdoh, painting, bike rides, iPad, puzzles, marble run, drawing… she offers Iris her companionship, friendship and supports me in encouraging Iris to interact.

 

Thula has lowered [Iris’] daily anxieties in life and keeps Iris calm, but equally has the effect of encouraging her to be more social. She will talk more to Thula, saying little phrases like ‘sit cat.’

Iris has been through a stage over the last year of hating baths and having her hair washed. Thula has been getting in the bath tub with Iris and even letting me shampoo her as well to help Iris.

Iris is more active first thing in the morning now. Before Thula, it was always hard to get the day going. She is easier to get engaged in activities and there have been changes out on our bike rides.