Rescue pets: My 'mental health' kitty

Last updated 05:00 21/05/2013
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CARINA: The perfect de-stress.

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UP CLOSE: Evening cuddles with Carina are the perfect way to ease stress.

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I'm a 20-year-old university student with Asperger's Syndrome. I study part-time because I cannot handle the people and workload of fulltime study. I struggle every day with the ordinary activities that most people take for granted. I can't walk into a crowded room without anxiety, I struggle to get between my classes, catch the bus, and even have a conversation with someone. I live at home with my parents because I can't handle living anywhere else, and will probably continue to live there for many years yet.

At the beginning of this year, I was struggling so much that I was seriously considering dropping out of university.

Then, after much convincing of my parents, I was allowed to adopt a kitten from the Cats Protection League.

Anybody who knows someone with Asperger's Syndrome is familiar with the concept of special interests. Well, cats have been my special interest since early primary school age, and I have been campaigning to my parents since then to get my own kitten.

We had one cat when I was a child, and he's still around. Though at 16, now, he has arthritis and a whole range of other age-related concerns, so is not quite as willing to be petted and/or manhandled as when he was little.

Carina (named after a southern sky constellation), is now a 15-week-old grey and white little girl.

She's the friendliest thing ever, and likes nothing better than clambering all over me. She's also so soft, which is a sensory heaven for me. Playing with her makes me smile even on my most difficult of days, and evening cuddles are a perfect de-stress after long university days. She's known in our household as my "mental health kitty".

I'm back on track with university now, with a clear path forward. My days are still difficult - they always will be - but I know there's something good waiting for me at home. Even now, she's sitting on top of a pile of books on my desk, watching me type, and playing with the little bits and pieces she can find among my clutter.

There's a lot of research out there that says animals for people with autism and Asperger's are incredibly positive. I would vouch for that 100 per cent.

In just four weeks, my little rescue kitten has managed to rescue me.

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