Billy the rescue cat helps young boy with autism

Fraser Booth, Highlands, Scotland – was diagnosed with autism at 18 months of age. His mother, Louise knew from birth that something was not right and was relieved to gain a diagnosis.

She told Ruth Walker of The Scotsman:

“It’s usually between the ages of three and five that they diagnose autism, but Fraser’s behaviour was extreme enough, they felt they should get him in for an assessment.”

The family were told that Fraser would never go to a mainstream school as his behaviour was too extreme.

When Fraser was 3, Louise decided to introduce a pet into the family.

“I felt Fraser was quite isolated from other children. We weren’t able to go to any toddler groups and he wasn’t really interacting, he didn’t have any friends. I felt if I got Fraser a pet of his own he would, first and foremost, have a friend, and it would give him something to interact with.”

They already had a cat called Toby and as Fraser is allergic to dog hair due to his asthma they opted for a rescue cat.

Louise tells that from the instant Fraser met Billy; he sat down in the cat’s pen and snuggled up to him. It was clear that they shared a special bond.

“Straight away, Billy was able to do something I couldn’t do. I didn’t have the ability to make him calm like that. And I still don’t. As much as we’ve come along, the one who still makes Fraser calm when he’s stressed is Billy.”

Louise explains that washing Fraser’s hair used to require both herself and her husband to hold him down but now that he has Billy every bath time the cat puts both his paws up on the edge of the water to help him.

Louise also tells of how Billy has encouraged Fraser to walk up the stairs.

“Everybody knows how amazing dogs are – for people with sight, or hearing or learning difficulties – and they’re good to train. If I’d wanted an autism assistance dog for Fraser, that dog would have had to go through a couple of years of training. But Billy hasn’t had a day’s training. Everything he does is on instinct so that, to me, is absolutely fascinating.”

The article reports that last year Fraser defied the experts’ predictions by enrolling in a mainstream school

“It’s really strange how my feelings have changed. Scotland is totally home now – it just took me a long time to settle. It is the most amazing place and I firmly believe it’s a massive factor in how well Fraser has developed.”

Fraser still relies on routine and Louise explains that the goalposts change all the time.

In October their elderly cat Toby sadly died and they decided that they should get Fraser’s sister Pippa 3, a cat of her own too.

“So we decided we’d get another Cat Protection cat for Pippa – a kitten this time. He’s called Percy and they’re getting on great.”

Fraser’s relationship with Billy continues to evolve and is becoming less dependent on him.

“It’s a different relationship because Fraser isn’t as intense a person as he was,”

Louise adds that they are now like best friends.

“There wasn’t much laughter or merriment. I do sometimes have a bit of a shudder when I think where we might be now without him.”

The full article by Ruth Walker in The Scotsman can be read here