Heartwarming Friendship Of A 5-Year-Old Girl With Autism And Her Therapy Cat


Recently we shared a story about Iris Grace

, a sweet little 5-year old with Autism that creates magnificent works of art. We also mentioned Thula, Iris’s kitty cat that helps her get her artwork done, among many other things.

Research reveals time and time again that pets make awesome therapy pals. For Iris, Thula is well worth her weight in gold. In an interview with Bored Panda, Iris’s mom, Arabella Carter-Johnson shared, “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.'”

Read more about Iris and Thula’s special relationship, while enjoying these adorable photos of the dynamic duo!


Arabella wanted to find a therapy pet for her daughter for a long time, although no animals seemed to do the trick. Mom didn’t just try cats, she also took Iris to Equine therapy, but she didn’t click with the horses. Dogs were not the answer either, “Iris and the dog didn’t get along– Iris hated being licked and the tail wagging, the hyperactivity of the dog would upset her.”


At one point Arabella gave up altogether trying to find a pet for Iris, she was tired of trying one animal after the next, only to find a missed connection. Then one Christmas, the family temporarily took in a Siberian cat. Iris and her uncle’s girlfriend’s cat happened to hit it off, sparking Arabella’s hope.

This pet sitting endeavor made her realize the right animal was out there, they just had not found him or her yet. A bunch of trial and error ensued, and then, finally a match was struck.


When Iris met Thula, an adorable Main Coon, it was love at first meow. Interestingly, despite what a wonderful job Thula does with Iris, she is not trained to be a service/therapy cat. Yet, since the family took her in at such a young age she has gotten used to many things ordinary cats might have a literal hissy-fit about, such as wearing a harness, riding in the car, and even riding in a bike. Everything else that this amazingly loyal cat does for Iris required no training at all, just love.




Regardless of the activity Iris is engaging with, Thula is always around and eager to participate. Iris’ mother says, “she offers Iris her companionship, friendship, and supports me in encouraging Iris to interact.”

Main Coons are one of the gentlest cat breeds, at only 1-year old Thula provides Iris with the perfect pal.


For the last year, Iris has not enjoyed taking baths one bit. Thanks to Thula, she is now more willing to soak in the soapy bubbles. Thula helps in so many ways, while cates don’t normally like taking baths, Thula is just happy to soak in the tub beside Iris. even allowing mom to shampoo her head so that Iris will allow the same to be done to her silky brown bob.


Thula also helps get the day going in general, before Thula Iris wasn’t always amped to get her day going. Now she is more willing to partake in activities, including bike rides.




Arabella says that no one told her specifically to get Iris a therapy animal, although she read extensively that pets can provide great improvements in children with Autism. Through her strong determination to help her daughter, Arabella successfully found the perfect four-legged friend for Iris. Their friendship is a gift they each appreciate every single day.





Check out more of Iris’ incredible artwork. 

Photo Credits: irisgracepaintingFacebookWordPressThe Little Explorers Activity Club, Bored Panda