autism,  high school,  milestones,  teen years

The Cat Job

I wasn’t sure how kitties and autism would work, but J and dogs has been working since 2014, so when my friend Sarah (who is also a talented writer!) was looking for someone to cat sit while she went out of town for a few days, I asked her if she would be okay with J taking the job.

J has never had a job before and the only person J has ever had to take care of is himself (he can make a mean bowl of spaghettios, soupy Kraft mac n’ cheese, and a salty bowl of ramen topped with about a cup of parmesan cheese—we cycle through a lot of Costco canisters of Parmesan cheese like it’s nobody’s business in our house). I know cats have a reputation of taking care of themselves and doing their own thing so I thought the “cat job” opportunity might be a good step into the foray of employment. J’s job would be to stop by once a day, change Mr. Hobbs’s water, feed him his wet cat food, clean out the litterbox, and play with him for a while.

Sarah invited J and I over about a week before she left town and showed J around and explained all of his duties. J got to meet Mr. Hobbs and Sarah taught J how to use cat toys and play with him. J loved him immediately—which really surprised me. J is a kid who takes a while to warm up to new things and usually needs a little coaxing to try something new or to interact with new people. When we got home that night he told me, “I can’t wait to do my cat job.”

Sarah has the most gorgeous rose bushes and flowers in her garden.

Sarah was a wonderful first employer. She left notes and reminders everywhere for J—where to place the dirty plates, a can of food for every day she was away, the watering cans set out on the countertop with a note on which days J needed to water the garden. It was the perfect setup for success—and J loved the responsibility. He hung out with Mr. Hobbs a good hour every day just to play with him. Every night he’d come home and say, “I love my cat job.” He told the therapists at visual therapy about his cat job. Every morning before XC practice J would tell me, “I want to tell everyone about my cat job.”

J learned so much about responsibility. We’ve sat down with J to talk to him about the money he earned for his “cat job.” J has no real concept of money (there was a time last year I asked one of his XC coaches to sit down with his special education teacher so they could write out a social story to include something about the concession stand not being a place that gives out free food and Gatorade). We did some math to show J how much money he earned and what he could buy with it: 23 large blizzards or 67 dilly bars (I guess 67 isn’t so bad of a number after all when you’re talking Dilly Bars—we’ve come a long way with learning to accept “bad” numbers). 48 Sandy’s donuts. When we started talking about money in those terms, J got really excited. I explained to him if he’s respectful at home and at XC practice and weight training, we’d be willing to drive him anywhere he wanted to go and he could buy anything he wanted. You could see the connection click of the freedom and opportunities he could have with his “cat job” money. It’s pretty fantastic.

Mr. Hobbs–a very wonderful cat who got more an more excited every day to see J. Isn’t he handsome?
J absolutely loved playing with Mr. Hobbs.

I am so grateful Sarah said yes to J and offered him the opportunity to work and earn some money. We are so lucky to have so many people around who are willing to work with J or give him a chance to try something new.

So if you’re looking for a cat sitter or someone to water your garden this summer—J’s the man for the job. And I know he’ll enjoy every moment of it!

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