Some cats may show signs unusual behavior which may lead you to think there is something wrong such as autism. But can cats be autistic? The simple answer is no. A common trait of a human with autism is anti-social behavior. Cats will show many autistic signs, including anti-social behavior, but it doesn’t mean they are actually autistic.
The way we as cat owners talk to our cats make them appear to be human. Whilst they are similar to to humans in some cases, they are also extremely different. Not socializing with other cats or people, lack of verbal communication, and other strange behavior is them being a cat.
So next time you ask yourself the question “can cats be autistic?”, just remember that cats can’t be autistic, they just perceive the world in a different to a human and they are very unique creatures.
What Is Autism?
A good way to start this article on “can cats be autistic?” is to fully understand what autism is. Autism is now widely understood and accepted but it it wasn’t always his way. It used to be a controversial topic with lots of misleading information such as the belief that autism could be caused by the MMR vaccine.
Although this myth came about in the 90’s, it still influences many parents today. It’s also the reason why some pet owners avoid vaccinating their cat. There is are a huge range of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which include:
- Sensitivity to sound, light, smell or taste
- Discomfort being touched
- Difficulty expressing their emotions and needs
- Difficulty understanding body language, vocal tones, and facial expressions
- Difficulty relating to other people
- An aversion to eye contact
- A preference for being alone
- A need for routine
- An enjoyment of repetition, such as words, phrases or actions
Even though we know a lot more about the disorder than we did 15-20 years ago, there is still ongoing research on the subject to continuously improve the lifestyle of people who suffer from autism. Although it is clear that it is genetic based, the one area that still needs more research is understanding the actual cause.
How Do Cats Display Autistic Tendencies?
After looking at the list of symptoms above, it’s obvious why some cat owners believe that their cat is autistic. Let’s take a look at some of these cat behaviors in more detail.
Socialization With Cats And Humans
One of the more well known symptoms of autism is discomfort in social situations such as keeping eye contact and even avoiding social gatherings entirely. Out of experience of being a cat owner I’ve saw it numerous times where a cat will avoid another cat, or find a hiding place when you have friends or family over to visit.
Although this behavior is ant-social and is a major sign or autism, it’s just simply normal cat behavior. The type of environment around them when they were kittens can play a big factor in this. If they receive a lot of social interaction from a young age then they will be more social when they are adults.
The same applies of all behavior such as scratching as an example. If you play with your kitten with your hand and allow them to scratch you. A lot of people do this, and as cute as it may seem, they will think it’s okay to scratch both you and your furniture when they are adults.
Although it may be a little harder, you can still train your cat to be more social even as adult cats.
Sensory Sensitivity Issues
Lack of focus and issues with sensitivity are another reason that people mistake as a sign of an autistic cat. Some common symptoms of autism are a dislike of being touched, and sensitivity to sound, taste, light, and light. Cats also display these same kind of signs but it is not autism.
Cat owners associate these signs of sensory overload with autism but it can actually be a sign that your cat may be suffering from health issues. These health issues include infections, organ failure, and depression.
Cat Communication And Vocalization
Verbal communication is a common trait amongst people who live with autism. When it comes to cats showing these signs, it usually comes in two forms. Some cats will be very quiet and refuse to vocalize, whilst others will vocalize excessively, usually at one person that they are familiar and comfortable with.
You can see how cat owners can misinterpret this as their cat being autistic. The reason for this is based on two factors. The first is the breed of the cat. Some breeds such as oriental shorthair and the Bengal are very vocal. The second reason is simply that all cats are different. As with humans, some people are quiet and others are very talkative.
You’ll usually find that they will be more vocal with the person in the house that feeds them and has regular play sessions. This is because activities like this will build a great bond between the two of you.
If your cat is either very quiet or very loud, you shouldn’t worry too much as this is just their personality. The time to be a little more concerned is if your cats behavior has suddenly changed. For example, if your cat has always been quiet and has suddenly become more vocal, they may be experience health issues..
You Cats Intellectual Skills
In some cases, a person suffering with autism will have an increased skill in a certain field or subject. A lot of cats show high intelligence or the ability to do a certain skill. Their owners will suspect this to be a sign of autism, but it’s simply that cats are intelligent creatures. Again, this can also come down to the breed.
Some breeds of cats such as Birmans, Abyssinians, and Bengals are highly intelligent breeds. For example, Bengals have an excellent memory, are good at learning tricks, and can even open doors and turn on light switches. It also comes down to the individual cat. Just as some humans are more intellectual than others, so are cats.
Can Cats Be Autistic
Just a reminder and as you’ve probably already guessed, the answer is no, a cat cannot be autistic. Although research on mental health in animals is still in the very early stages, there is no evidence that links autism with cats. Research has found that cats can struggle with OCD and anxiety.
It’s also very interesting that research has found that some dogs may have a form of autism. Until research suggests otherwise, remember that it is perfectly normal for your cat to be quiet, vocal towards one person, or want to spend time on their own.
The Link Between Autism, Cats, and Children
Although it is now pretty obvious, and your question of can cats be autistic? has now been answered, there is actually a excellent link between autism and cats that will amaze you. A recent study was conducted and found that children suffering from autism can benefit greatly from having a cat as a pet.
The reason for this is because other children can be very judgemental. A cat will be less judgemental who can provide a stable companionship with a child. What was interesting about the study is that it found evidence that the cat displayed more affection to the child with autism than it did with other people living in the same house.
Even though research on this subject is still in the early stages, they still suggest that finding a cat for a child with autism is essential. If you have an autistic child and are considering getting a cat as a pet, here are some things for you to consider:
- Early bonding from a kitten is essential as they will grow up to be more affectionate.
- Choose a breed of cat that is naturally socially outgoing and affectionate.
- Avoid breeds that are very anxious and independent.
- Speak with both a vet and your doctor if you are unsure of anything.
Hope you enjoyed this article and that it has answered your question of can cats be autistic? If you have questions or any stories of your own regarding the things we covered in this post, leave them in the comments section below.