Story highlights importance of human-animal bond in times of tragedy
A cat who helped his Aspergic owner cope with the sudden death of his father has been crowned National Cat of the Year 2019.
Eight-year-old Jeffree from Coventry beat hundreds of other entries to be named overall winner in the nation’s biggest celebration of cats.
He was awarded in recognition of the life-changing effect he had on 14-year-old Finn Hackeson, who became depressed and withdrawn after his dad died in 2018.
Because Finn has Apserger syndrome he can find it difficult to communicate. But Finn’s mother Gayle Atkins said that he has been able to cope much better ever since Jeffree came into their lives.
Collecting Jeffree’s award at London’s Savoy on Thursday (8 August), Gayle said: “I’m thrilled Jeffree has won, he’s most definitely an absolute star in our household. I hope that through his story more people will see what an incredible support cats can be for both children and adults with autism.
“Cats don’t judge, they don’t rush you to talk about your feelings and they accept people the way they are – and that really is priceless.”
She continued: “I was prepared to do anything to help him and, because we’re animal lovers, we adopted Jeffree. I don’t think I really had any other options available then, he was my big hope of pulling Finn back from the brink – and he totally did it.
“To think how far Finn has come is incredible and I don’t know of any other therapy that could have had this effect. It’s all down to this amazing little black cat.”
Jeffree was chosen by a star-studded panel of judges which included Radio Times film editor, Andrew Collins, actor, Tyger Drew-Honey, and musician, Rick Wakeman. He was named overall winner after scooping first place in the Furr-ever Friends category, which celebrates the bond between children and cats.
Cats Protection’s awards organiser Kate Bunting said: “Some children face particularly challenging struggles in their lives and often the family pet can be a huge source of comfort and friendship. Finn and Jeffree’s story shows how important this bond can be and how it can help during times of tragedy.
“I’m so pleased Finn and Jeffree have found each other and I hope many other families will be inspired by their story.”