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Anxiety-fighting felines and hospice companions nominated in National Cat Awards

Elliot Abery, 11, from Thatcham, Berkshire, with his pet Chicken, who has been nominated for a National Cat Award (Matt Alexander/PA)
Elliot Abery, 11, from Thatcham, Berkshire, with his pet Chicken, who has been nominated for a National Cat Award (Matt Alexander/PA)

A brother and sister who comfort those receiving end-of-life care and an anxiety-battling companion to a young boy with autism are among the felines nominated for this year’s National Cat Awards.

The annual awards, organised by the UK’s largest cat charity, Cats Protection, recognises the bond between owners and their whiskered companions.

The competition’s four categories – Cat Colleagues, Furr-ever Friends, Most Caring Cat, and Outstanding Rescue Cat – will be judged by a raft of famous faces, including businesswoman Deborah Meaden, England footballer Ellen White and comedian Bob Mortimer.

Comedian Bob Mortimer is one of the judges for this year’s awards (Ciaran McCrickard Photography/PA)

The winning animals are set to be announced in August, and will receive a trophy, a £200 pet store voucher and a year’s subscription to Cats Protection’s The Cat magazine.

Siblings Jasper and Willow are part of the team at St Peter & St James Hospice in Haywards Heath, West Sussex – visiting patients receiving end-of-life care, and helping their families to feel more relaxed.

Jasper and Willow work at St Peter & St James Hospice in Haywards Heath (Ciaran McCrickard/PA)

Jackie Manville, a manager at the hospice, said they have a “hugely positive effect on everyday life”, adding: “A lot of time is spent sitting and watching, and having our cats to stroke really helps, making the hospice more homely.

“Jasper in particular seems to intuitively know when patients are having a difficult day, or if they are in need of company.

“He’ll hop on to the bed and just sit quietly, purring away. It’s enough to raise a smile and helps people relax when they’re feeling tense and worried.”

Among the nominees in the Furr-Ever Friends category is Chicken, companion to 11-year-old Elliot Abery, who has autism and suffers with anxiety.

Eleven-year-old Elliot Abery with his cat Chicken, who has been nominated in the Furr-Ever Friends category (Matt Alexander/PA)

The pair live in the town of Thatcham, Berkshire.

Elliot’s mother, Jenny, 45, said: “Elliot and Chicken share a special bond which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

“When he’s had a tough day or is struggling with anxiety, talking about Chicken has a calming effect on him.

“Chicken and Elliot are just brilliant together and I really hope their story will help highlight how incredible cats can be for people with autism.”

Nominated in the Cat Colleagues category is Marley, who works at The Apuldram Centre in Chichester, West Sussex.

Marley, the resident cat at The Apuldram Centre in Chichester, is a regular attendee at staff meetings (Ciaran McCrickard/PA)

The centre helps adults with learning difficulties, and Marley spends his days attending staff meetings and comforting the centre’s clients.

Member of staff Richard Manning said: “We have lots of activities for people who come to the day centre, such as arts and crafts, gardening and dance – and Marley gets stuck into all of them.”

Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards organiser Kate Bunting said: “Cats make incredible pets for all sorts of homes, and this year’s finalists really go to show how there is a cat for everyone.”