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HRA Alum Changes the Life of a Young Girl on the Autism Spectrum

By Mary Beth McAndrews, Digital and Communications Specialist

Dogs are often thought of as the go-to companion animals, especially when it comes to providing emotional support. More so than cats, they’re typically viewed as happy, loyal, and loving creatures who are always ready to be with their human. At least that’s what Giselle Abrams initially thought. But then, she and her daughter Ahnya met 4-year-old Lucky, a grey and white cat who would come to change their lives. 

Ahnya, who is on the autism spectrum and has Tourette’s Syndrome, always wanted a cat, but Giselle was hesitant due to allergies. However, after some persistence on Ahnya’s part and some research on Giselle’s, they started looking at cats on the Humane Rescue Alliance’s (HRA) website. They then came into the adoption center initially to meet a cat named Snowflake, but Lucky caught  Giselle’s eye.  

“Lucky was the second cat we saw,” said Giselle. “I asked if I could take her out and they said sure. I took her out, she wasn’t very pleased about that. She sat on my lap and she was so soft.”

They still met Snowflake, who was sweet, cuddly, and all about the pets. While Giselle and Ahnya both loved Snowflake, they couldn’t stop thinking about Lucky.  

“Something about Lucky made me go back to her,” said Giselle. “I kept thinking, ‘yeah, this is the one.’ I can’t explain what it was. I was very drawn to Lucky. She reminds me of me, very aloof!” 

So they took Lucky home and Giselle and Ahnya realized that this was one of the best decisions they ever made. In an update sent to HRA just five days after Lucky’s adoption, Giselle explained that Lucky was able to calm Ahnya down when she was getting upset by simply placing a paw on Ahnya’s arm.

In the update, Giselle said: “Last night my daughter was revving up to have a meltdown because she couldn’t find something. Nothing I said to keep her calm seemed to be helping. Lucky appeared and jumped up on a table close to where she was. She looked up at my daughter, started meowing, and began tapping her with her paw. Instantly my daughter stopped screaming, stopped flapping her hands and said calmly, ‘Hi Lucky.’”

Now, two years later, Giselle, Ahnya, and Lucky continue to thrive as a family. In fact, Giselle says adopting Lucky was the best thing she has done for her daughter’s development.

“I feel like a whole, complete family now that we have a pet,” Giselle said. “She’s an integral part of our home now. She really helps us be more compassionate. She’s really made a difference for us.”

Lucky helps both Ahnya and Giselle generally feel calmer. She seems to know when either of them is feeling stressed, so she’ll jump up and lay down next to them. Just her presence is a comfort.

“She basically helps us when she’s there when I least expect it,” said Ahnya.

She has also helped teach Ahnya, now 15, responsibility. Ahnya is in charge of feeding and cleaning up after her, and she does so without any complaint.  

“She’s so in love with Lucky,” said Giselle.  

In having Lucky, Giselle has discovered the companionship and love a cat can offer a family. It isn’t only dogs who are able to comfort you during a difficult time. Giselle explained that growing up she was surrounded by animals, but never cats. Something about them seems to scare or worry people. But now, Giselle corrects anyone who tries to speak ill of them.

“If you want to have a companion, the best animal companion to have is a cat. They do have their moods like any other animals. They aren’t as needy as dogs, but they are loving, affectionate, and offer you what you need from a pet,” said Giselle. “I would take Lucky over a dog any day.”

Read more in the spring 2020 issue of the Alliance magazine, honoring the resilience, curiosity, and wonder of cats. 




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