A pet which changed the life of a boy with a severe anxiety disorder has been named National Cat of the Year. Jessi-Cat was honoured for helping Lorcan Dillon, seven, cope with selective mutism, a condition which affects his ability to express himself. Lorcan, from Davyhulme, Greater Manchester, can now say "I love you" and share his emotions when he finds it difficult to speak to people.
The cat was honoured by feline charity Cats Protection. Jessi-Cat was crowned overall winner by celebrity judge, the prog rock keyboard player Rick Wakeman, after winning the Best Friends category which was one of five award categories. "The bond between Jessi-Cat and Lorcan is incredible and it has clearly had a hugely positive impact on Lorcan's home and school life," said Mr Wakeman.
He added: "Jessi-Cat helps Lorcan to communicate and express emotions that ordinarily Lorcan wouldn't be able to do." Lorcan and his mother Jayne Dillon, 44, were at the awards ceremony to accept Jessi-Cat's prizes - a star-shaped trophy, a three-month supply of cat food, a year's worth of cat litter and a framed photograph. She said the family decided to get a cat to see if it would help Lorcan communicate better.
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She said: "Lorcan is able to connect love to Jessi-Cat, something he can't do with people, and she's been a great support to him when things have been really hard. He does not express his emotions, he would not say 'I love you Mummy', he just doesn't do it. But with the cat he can cuddle her, he can stroke her, he can talk to her and he can say 'I love you Jessi-Cat'."