BISMARCK, N.D. – Chelsea Mayberry uses occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy and applied behavior analysis to help with her autism, anxiety and depression diagnoses.

The 15-year-old also attends “kitty therapy.”

Chelsea for the past three years has visited the cats and kittens at the Central Dakota Humane Society to greet and cuddle the dozens of felines living at the shelter north of Mandan on Highway 1806.

The no-kill shelter is home to dozens of dogs and cats in need of adopting. The facility is always looking for volunteer dog-walkers and kitty-cuddlers. Twice a week, Chelsea volunteers to cuddle the kitties. She sees her visits accomplishing two goals.

“I make sure they know they are loved and that there’s hope,” she said of her main reason. “Some of them don’t get adopted and that they see less people. I am trying to have them be socialized. They will get adopted someday; they just haven’t found the right human.”

The socializing benefits Chelsea, too.

“It’s good for her,” said her mother, Angie Mayberry. “Sometimes she has trouble relating to people. Animals are a little bit easier for her, and (cuddling) tends to have a calming effect.

“Her coming here and interacting with these kitties, and she socializes with them, but also when people come here to look at adopting the kitties – then she gets that socialization with people as well,” Mayberry told the Bismarck Tribune .

Mayberry has seen her daughter grow not only socially but also academically since volunteering. Chelsea has gone from testing at a 6-year-old level to now testing as high as a nearly 10-year-old level.

Mandy Schaaf, the shelter’s volunteer and special event coordinator, calls Chelsea very astute. Schaaf said when a new cat is brought to the shelter and is dealing with a medical issue, Chelsea will research the problem and tell people what she has learned.

“It gives me happiness to know that they might get adopted with all the loving they can get,” Chelsea said.

Information from: Bismarck Tribune,

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