Can Cats Have Autism? - Cat Kingpin
can cats have autism

Can Cats Have Autism?

Have you ever wondered if your cat has autism? Maybe your cat sometimes stares into space, or perhaps they keep running around the house over and over again for no apparent reason.

But does your cat just have a unique personality or are they actually on the autism spectrum?

In this article we’ll cover the following;

  • Autism, What You Need to Know
  • Do Cats Show Signs of Autism?
  • Is My Cat Actually on the Autism Spectrum?
  • What Should I Do if I Think My Cat Has Autism?

Autism, What You Need to Know

In humans, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges a person has in regards to social skills, repetitive behaviors, and communication.

However, not all of the signs of autism are deficits as a person can have unique strengths and may just learn, interact and behave differently than most people. High functioning autism is often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome.

As the video below demonstrates, many people believe their cats at least act like they have autism:

Do Cats Show Signs of Autism?

Looking around the web, you can see many people claiming their cats show some of the distinctive social and behavioral characteristics common to humans with autism. But such claims are not limited to cats. In fact, as early as 1966, a syndrome in dogs was recognized that resembled human infantile autism.

Other animals, including laboratory rats, primates, horses and even polar bears have exhibited the intense repetitive behaviors and deficits in social interactions that are the hallmarks of autism. In her book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, noted author and animal behaviorist, Temple Grandin, who has autism, writes that, “Autism is a kind of way station on the road from animals to humans.”

So, it is certainly possible that your cat has behaviors consistent with autism.

Is My Cat Actually on the Autism Spectrum?

Unlike many conditions, autism is diagnosed solely on the basis of behavior. While it is thought there is a genetic component, ASD is now considered a complex disorder that cannot be defined by a single cause.

This means there is currently no objectively definitive test that can determine that, yes, your cat has autism.

However, Nicholas Dodoman, veterinary behaviorist and author of the animal psychiatry book Pets on the Couch, has identified two blood chemicals found that are consistent in both autistic children and tail-chasing bull terriers. He is now working to find a genetic marker which could lead to a diagnostic test for autism.

So, while we may not currently be able to test our cats for autism, their behaviors can be a strong indication. Watch the video below and see if your cat has any signs of being on the spectrum.

What Should I Do if I Think My Cat Has Autism?

Kathy Hoopmann has written a delightful book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome. What should be clear is that, even if your cat is on the autism spectrum, they are still wonderful pets. They just might interact with the world a little differently.

Taking a cue from human children with autism, take a look at the following tips to make life with your potentially autistic cat as fun and enjoyable as possible:

  • Avoid exposing your cat to loud noises.
  • Try not to startle your cat.
  • If you cat doesn’t want to be picked up and cuddled right now, give him or her some space, they be back for snuggling when they’re ready.
  • Find toys for your cat that are rich in visual and tactile stimulation.
  • Remember that they may be even more reactive to things cats hate.

So, Can Cats Have Autism?

Since there is no definitive medical tests, autism is diagnosed strictly on the basis of behavior. Currently there is no universally accepted diagnosis of animal autism in the veterinary field. That said, since there are many similarities in the biology of humans and other mammals, it is certainly possible that cats could have autism.

But, even if your cat does have autism, they can still be a wonderful pet. Just like people, a cat with autism can be playful, loving and affectionate. They are just a unique individual that does things a little different than your average alley cat.

So, if your cat does have autism, enjoy his or her uniqueness. Always make sure their environment is a happy and comfortable one. Be sure to buy a good book on cats and autism, get some interesting toys, and have fun with your special furry friend.

If you have any questions or would like to share a story about your cat and autism, please tell us in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

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Phil R.

Phil’s lifelong love of animals began as a young boy growing up with three pet dogs. As a teenager and young adult, Phil spent six years working as a veterinary technician, later earning a B.S. in Animal Science. After college, Phil continued working as a vet tech part-time while caring for a private collection of mountain lions used in wildlife educational programs. During this time, Phil volunteered at the Dallas Zoo and was eventually offered a position as a zookeeper in the zoo’s naturalistic Wilds of Africa area. Phil became the primary keeper for a black leopard named “Grady” and a caracal named “Tut” in the predator/prey exhibit.

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