Big gains from playing with cats

Huge impact: Volunteering with Queenstown Community Cats has been hugely beneficial for Louise Wright and her private carer, Emma Kent, left

Cat therapy’s reaping dividends for a Wakatipu High School student who lives with a rare chromosome disorder.

Louise Wright’s disorder has manifested as a global developmental delay, OCD, anxiety, autism/autistic tendencies, and epilepsy, her private carer, Emma Kent, says.

Each Monday after school, Wright, 20, visits Queenstown Community Cats’ therapy room where she’s been volunteering to feed and help care for the cats, and play with them.

Wright says she likes the cats, because ‘‘they’re soft’’, ‘‘silly’’ and make her ‘‘giggle’’.

Her work with the charity’s increased her patience, helped her learn routines and develop a ‘‘gentle, calm, quiet’’ voice, Kent says.

‘‘Louise can be quite loud when she talks and her teachers have also noticed that she seemed to have developed this really soft voice … and it’s because when we’re in here, we have to be nice and quiet and calm for the cats.’’

Through spending time with the cats, Wright’s also been able to regulate her emotions.

‘‘She really likes to just let them walk all over her … like a climbing frame.

‘‘The purring and the deep pressure that the cats give her, and the warmth, helps with her sensory input … as a whole, she can regulate her emotions and calm herself down a lot better,’’ Kent says.

Wright says the work she is doing makes her feel helpful and important.

Recently, she was able to watch as one of the cats she’d been caring for went to a new home which she says was ‘‘good’’.

Queenstown Community Cats trustee Andrea Balona says, at present, there are about 40 cats and kittens who need to find permanent homes.

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