Ten-year-old George Romp could barely look at his mother, Julia, let alone show her affection, until the day a black and white stray cat wandered into their lives — and hearts. “Ben [the cat] changed our lives forever,” says Julia.
“George was born screaming — but unlike other babies, he didn’t stop when I tried to hold him,” recalls Julia Romp, who was 22 when she gave birth to her son George, 14 years ago in London. After countless doctors visits and years of speculation he was finally diagnosed with autism. “He didn’t want me near him. I loved him so much, but he would tense up every time I touched him. It broke my heart. I worried that it was my punishment for being a single mom.” Then one day in 2006, a scraggly stray black and white cat moved into their yard. They named him Ben and he instantly took a liking to George, which was beginning of a beautiful friendship that no one could have seen coming.
Over the next four years, Ben became a part of the family, and Julia noticed her son was finally coming out of his shell. After a visit to the vet, much to Julia’s surprise, George actually made eye contact with the animal. Julia watched in awe as the boy began talking to the cat and asked if he was feeling better. “I worried that it would scratch him, but it rubbed up against him. Instead of pulling away, George stroked it and grinned, something I’d hardly ever seen,” Julia, 37, tells the Daily Mail.
George continued to converse with the cat, which stunned his mother. He would tell her exciting stories about the cat’s adventures — everything from meeting Superman to building a rollercoaster and diving out of an airplane! “Ben changed our lives forever,” gushes Julia, who now works for two cat rescue charities.
But, she says the greatest gift Ben gave her son, was the ability to express emotion. “One night, George had been playing with Ben when he climbed up next to me on the sofa and rubbed his face into me, the way Ben did with him. When I quietly asked what he was doing, he said he was “showing me love” like Ben did. I was so overwhelmed — I didn’t even think he knew what love was,” she reveals.
Ben thrived on George’s attention and the more they bonded the better the boy did in school. His grades improved and he even began making friends, which is a huge accomplishment for an autistic child. Disaster struck when the cat disappeared. “I hate you” were the only words George would speak to his mother until he and the kitty were eventually reunited.
And Julia has a plan to make sure George is never without a furry friend again. “I worry so much about it, but I already have a plan to introduce Ben’s ‘baby’ into our home. Hopefully George will form a bond with that kitten, too. But for the time being, we’re enjoying being a family,” she says. “We had years of sadness, but now we have enough laughter to make up for the years we lost. Ben isn’t a magic cure for George’s autism, but I can’t imagine life without him.”
I’m so touched by this story. I’ve always been more of a dog person, but after reading this, I have changed my mind and think that a feline will fit in just fine with my family.