Special Kitty Encourages Young Girl with Autism to Interact

They often say dogs are man’s best friend, but what about cats?

Meet Thula, the amazing Maine Coon cat who has captured the hearts of millions of YouTube viewers with her delightful friendship with a six-year-old girl with autism named Iris Grace Halmshaw.  Revered as the talented girl who took the world by storm with her striking impressionistic painting-style, England’s famous young artist has found a magical friendship with her sweet kitty.


Thula entered Iris’ life two years ago after her mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson, reached out on her Facebook page dedicated to raising autism awareness in search of advice on therapy pets. While some people suggested dogs, she also received messages about the remarkable Maine Coon breed of cat.  Not aware of the American breed at first, Carter-Johnson was intrigued to learn how intelligent and gentle these cats were — and surprisingly fond of water, a sensation Iris struggled with.  It wasn’t long before a fluffy kitten joined the family.

Diagnosed with autism at age two, Iris has long disliked the sensation of anything touching her skin, making bath time and getting dressed a daily challenge. Ever since Thula joined the family, however, Iris has been more comfortable bathing and wearing layers. In fact, their heartwarming bond has reduced Iris’ anxieties and has even encouraged her to interact more.

Today, no matter where Iris is, whether it’s in the garden painting, washing up in the tub or snuggled up in her bed, Thula is lovingly by her side.

Amy KD Tobik

Amy KD Tobik, Editor-in-Chief of Autism Parenting Magazine, has more than 30 years of experience as a published writer and editor. A graduate of Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Amy’s background includes magazine, newspaper, and book publishing. As a special needs advocate and editor, she coordinates with more than 300 doctors, autism specialists, and researchers to ensure people diagnosed with autism receive the services and supports they need for life. She has two adult children and lives in the Carolinas with her husband.