Pets are powerful. They can provide love and comfort in the darkest of times – even in the aftermath of a death.
Jeffree the cat is so much more than just a pet. When Finn’s dad died suddenly after an unexpected cancer diagnosis, Jeffree prevented Finn from spinning off the rails.
13-year-old Finn has Asperger’s Syndrome, so dealing with bereavement was extra difficult. But Finn’s mum Gayle says that Jeffree provided a lifeline for the teenager.
‘In a nutshell Jeffree is not only the most handsome cat in the world ever, he’s the most patient, loving, friendly and gentle cat. He never stops purring,’ Gayle tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Jeffree has helped Finn to focus on something positive.
‘Finn now has a purpose; to look after Jeffree. Jeffree is also non-judgemental – an issue that Finn struggles with on a daily basis.
‘Being a 13-year-old who has Asperger’s Syndrome is not easy and unfortunately a lot of Finn’s peers do not have the emotional maturity and understanding to empathise with him.
‘Jeffree seems to understand when to be close to Finn, especially when he is having a meltdown or is a bit low. When Finn is struggling, Jeffree makes a beeline for him and doesn’t leave his side.’
Jeffree seems like an incredibly intuitive cat, and he really understands Finn’s needs. This was incredibly important when tragedy struck the family.
‘Unfortunately, we all had very little time to get used to Finn’s father’s cancer diagnosis and to prepare for what would happen next,’ explains Gayle.
‘One key factor when parenting a child with Asperger’s is to prepare them for everything in order to help them to cope. Preparing Finn for the death of his father is the most difficult thing that I have faced as a parent.
‘Although Finn’s father and I had been separated for a while, we both agreed that sharing custody of Finn would be the best thing for him, so he lived with me for half of the week and with his father for the other half; it was his partner Donna who called me to explain that he’d been taken ill.
‘None of us expected what would come next.
‘He was taken ill in February 2018 and died on the 4th June 2018.
‘During his stay in hospital, I took Finn out of school so that he could spend as much time with his father as possible.
‘After Finn’s fathers death, Finn moved in with me full time. This meant that he also had to move schools. Unfortunately, all of the upheaval, coupled with bereavement took its toll on Finn’s mental health.
‘He left me many notes saying that he wanted to die. Although Finn had (and still has) regular counselling sessions, he simply couldn’t shake the darkness that he felt and his depression spiralled.’
Things were really bad for Gayle and Finn in the immediate aftermath of their loss. Finn had been desperate to get another pet since his last cat Simon died in 2017, but with Gayle living on a busy road she thought it was out of the question.
That is until she checked out the Coventry Cats protection website.
‘I saw an advert for a house cat. Jeffree can’t go outside as he is FIV positive (although he loves a stroll in the garden on his leash).
‘I knew that owning a cat would make a huge difference to Finn.
‘When Finn got home from school on the 6th December 2018, Jeffree was waiting for him.
‘At first, Finn thought that I had borrowed him – it took a long time to sink in that he was his.
‘From that day to this, Finn has been a different person. He now has something to live for. Jeffree loves Finn and Finn absolutely loves Jeffree to the stars and back.
‘I strongly believe that they have saved each other. After all, an older black cat with FIV hadn’t got much going for him in terms of finding a forever home. Most people want to adopt cute kittens.’
They are a match made in heaven and the pair are now totally inseparable. Gayle is certain that animals can have a hugely beneficial effect on children like Finn.
‘I think that pets are the perfect companion for not only children with Asperger’s but adults too,’ she says.
‘Finn struggles massively interacting with humans. Not everyone with Asperger’s does, but it’s a common trait.
‘Finn’s counsellor explained that people with Asperger’s are very much like cats; they like being on their own, they like being touched but on their terms, they are picky with their food, they are loving and warm to the people that they trust – she says that neurotypical people are more like dogs; sociable, friendly to strangers and will eat anything.
‘An animal will never judge you – will never call you names, will never talk about you negatively to others, will never assume that you’re an “Emo” just because you look sad, will never push into you because your friends think it’s funny to pick on the quirky kid, will never shout things at you when they are in a pack and you’re on your own.
‘Finn deals with this daily and then he comes home to Jeffree and everything is safe and OK.’
We are so happy that they found each other.
Jeffree is one of 15 finalists in Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards, which is taking place at London’s Savoy, on the 8th August.
Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity, helping around 200,000 cats every year through a network of 36 centres and more than 250 volunteer-run branches.
In honour of Catfest, we will be partnering with the festival to bring you seven days of the funniest, cutest, coolest and most amazing cat content.
Until Saturday 29 June, read stories about all things cats, including kittens abandoned on rubbish dumps to fantastic cat art, and everything in-between.
Catfest will include cat-themed literature and film plus live music, poetry and crafts. There will be rescue kittens, talks from cat experts, Instagram cats and an auction as well as cocktails, cake and much more. Tickets have sold out, but you can still get involved on social media.
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