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Purrs for Autism Pairs Kids With Autism With Kittens for Social Play

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Animal therapy has been known to do wonders for those on the autism spectrum, but it’s not just dogs that can help kids open up. Cats can too. At least, that is what the Autism Society of Southern Arizona has learned through its Purrs for Autism program.

Working with the Hermitage No Kill Cat Shelter, the Autism Society of Southern Arizona began offering a cat therapy program designed for children on the spectrum.

“[Lee Bucyk, the executive director of the cat shelter] had been doing research on how animal therapy could assist children on the spectrum and the idea of a cat-centered pet therapy program was born,” Nicole Glasner, executive director of the Autism Society of Southern Arizona, explained. “It is a win-win situation for both organizations. Because those with autism can often lead very isolated lives, this is an opportunity for our kids to connect with something very real and very fuzzy, and it is a chance for the cats to become socialized beyond the shelter and get tons of snuggles.”

As part of the program, kids and teens with autism, ages 5 to 18, meet once a week to play with two to three homeless kittens and cats. In addition to playing with the cats, participants learn how to care for animals as well as the ins and outs of cat adoption. The weekly program is free to attend, ensuring all interested families get to participate.

For those who attend, it has been nothing short of amazing,” Glasner told The Mighty. “The children come out of their shell and learn life lessons from these beautiful cats. The program takes steps to teach pet responsibility (pet safety and cat behavior) and routine, while promoting therapeutic and educational interaction between friend and feline.”

No cats have been adopted by participants yet, but there is always the option for families to take a cat home if a special bond occurs.

To learn more about the program, visit the Autism Society of Southern Arizona’s website

Originally published: December 10, 2016
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