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Five-year-old autistic artist Iris Grace finds inspiration in her cat, Thula

Once Thula was introduced to the family, Iris became much better at communicating with others

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 15 October 2014 15:57 BST

Iris Grace, the five-year-old artist who has been praised for raising awareness of autism through her beautiful paintings, has a favourite source of inspiration.

Thula the cat, who has featured in much of her work, is a breed called Maine Coon and was introduced to Iris in February.

Before Thula, Iris’s mother Arabella said that she was extremely uncomfortable wearing clothes, yet once she and Thula became friends, she began wearing clothes, sleeping better, and communicating.

The family has seen a remarkable improvement in her behaviour since Thula came into the family, after researching the benefits of animal therapy but having no luck with horses or dogs.

Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson
Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson

Iris Grace, who lives with her family in Leicestershire, began painting last year, and has been praised by buyers, collectors and galleries for her incredible work.

Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson

Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher have shared Iris’s work on social media, while three-time BAFTA award winner Olivia Colman showed her support by reading a poem for a video about Iris.

Iris and Thula are now inseparable, with the cat staying by her side as often as it can.

Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson
Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson

Since one of Iris’s favourite things to do is paint, Thula becomes her assistant, sitting patiently and watching her work. The pair also play hide and seek, have bubble baths, and go for walks.

Photo by Arabella Carter-Johnson

If you would like to support Iris and her work, you can visit her site at

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