A CARING cat has swapped glamorous photo shoots for helping the community in his new role as a therapy animal.

Spotted Bengal Leo, from Abingdon, starred in a series of award-winning images taken by Oxford Mail photographer Yuri Anderegg which were turned into a calendar in 2007.


The feline was happy posing everywhere from the Phoenix cinema to the back of a motorbike, even donning miniature boxing gloves for one snap.

It is exactly this temperament that owner Ellie Silverwood believed would make him an ideal therapy animal.

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She said: “He is so relaxed and easy-going, I always say he is more like a Labrador than a cat.

“He loves people, we live opposite Waitrose and he will walk with us to the shop and he waits for my son 12-year-old Max on his way home from school.”


It was after the single mum saw a documentary about therapy animals that she decided to get in touch with Oxfordshire-based charity Pets as Therapy.

She said: “Around 98 per cent of their therapy animals are dogs because they need to be able to remain calm around lots of people but I knew Leo would be perfect.”

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Since passing his assessment ‘with flying colours’ last year Leo and Ms Silverwood, who is registered as the feline’s handler, have visited schools, care homes and hospices in Oxford and Abingdon.

She said: “I work at Costa part-time but on my day off each week we go to anywhere that have requested a visit.”

The mum-of-one said everyone from children at Helen & Douglas House, to care home patients at Abingdon’s Bridge House loved the 13-year-old cat.

She added: “As soon as he comes in he purrs and people love that, it’s especially good for the children with special education needs.


“On Christmas Eve we visited Bridge House and there was one woman who was in tears she was so happy to see Leo because she missed her own cats.

“It’s really rewarding to see how much joy he brings to people.”

As for his modelling career, the feline’s time in the spotlight was short-lived but Ms Silverwood said it was not through lack of talent. She explained: “He has beautiful eyes and was so well-behaved I did think about TV advertising but my son Max was a baby and that was my focus."

To find out more about the charity and how to request a visit, go to petsastherapy.org.