Celebrating a special bond: Meet the cat who helped a young girl with autism overcome severe anxiety

It’s dogs who have a reputation for being “man’s best friend” - but for one young girl from Sutton Coldfield, her feline friend gives them a run for their money.

Long-haired ginger tom Harry took a shine to Molly Cassidy from the moment he and his brother Ted were adopted into the family.

He now looks after the 12-year-old, who has autism, and her family says he has helped her battle issues of severe anxiety and social isolation.

Harry has been shortlisted in the Cats Protection’s prestigious National Cat of the Year Awards, in recognition of the special bond he and Molly share.

Before Harry came onto the scene, Molly was having panic attacks quite frequently. Molly didn't understand what was happening, we didn't understand what was happening.

Harry just attached himself to Molly - it was almost as if he knew from the very beginning that Molly needed him.

I don't think Molly would be as comfortable and as calm as she is now without having Harry. He's helped her in ways nobody else has been able to.

– Jeanette Cassidy, Molly’s mother
Harry the cat is a finalist in the Cat Protection's National Cat of the Year awards Credit: ITV News Central

He cuddles her when she has an anxiety attack, and sticks by her side whenever she is in the house.

He even protects her from ‘dangers’ - attacking a hot water bottle which got too close, and pouncing on her father when he tried to wake her early one morning.

Harry means the world to me. If I had to choose between something really special to me, and Harry, I would choose him, because he's just amazing.

Life was pretty tough before. I wasn’t getting proper support - but I feel like Harry has given me more than enough support.

I couldn't ask for another cat, I just couldn't possibly trade him for anything in the world. He also gives me someone to talk to - and he gives me a best friend.

– Molly Cassidy

She has even been able to teach him to ‘sit’ on command.

Molly has even taught Harry to 'sit' on command Credit: ITV News Central

Nominated in the ‘Furr-ever friends’ category, Harry is up against 14 others in the race to be crowned Cat of the Year.

For Molly, she is looking forward to showing the world how amazing her best friend really is.

“I just want people to know how special animals are,” she said.

“They can help people in ways humans can’t, really. I never knew cats could be like this before - I think more people should have cats.”

The winner will be announced in a ceremony at London’s Savoy Hotel on August 3.