Although diagnosis is centered around human behavior, many pet lovers and experts have discovered similarities between special-needs cats and people with autism. Still, cats are typically only generally labeled as special needs if they have a physical or mental disability. If this all sounds new, don’t worry: We’ll go over important terms and what to look for in your cat’s behavior.
Autism is a spectrum of behaviors that affect a person’s ability to communicate, interact with others, and generally function in society. This means a person with one type of autism may exhibit way different behaviors than someone on the other end of the spectrum.
However, the most common traits in people with autism are difficulty adjusting to change, difficulty processing outside stimuli (sounds, noises, lights), desire for organized, predictable routines and situations, and repetitive verbal sounds or repetitive motions. People with autism also prefer to be by themselves, often passing up on opportunities to play or work in a group. Lastly, people with autism tend to get very interested in a certain subject or activity and will often obsess about this topic.
Like humans and other animals, some cats have special needs. Keep in mind, though, that most of these needs stem from physical disabilities or old age. For instance, some cats only have two or three limbs, classifying them as a cat with special needs.
Other common special-needs conditions are blindness, deafness, and complete immobility. Beyond physical disabilities, some special-needs cats have mental impairment. These conditions may be caused by birth defects, accidents, or illness. Some cats even have Down syndrome-type symptoms, including wide set eyes, poor hearing, poor vision, unusually shaped facial features, and uncommon behavior. In this case, check in with your vet to find out the exact causes and how to properly care for your fur baby with special needs.
When you think about it, cats do exhibit some traits in the autistic spectrum. They get obsessed over catching certain toys and catching things. They enjoy their alone time. They may get easily overstimulated or spooked by loud noises, bright lights, and even too much affection. Cats also enjoy routine and are highly intelligent.
Nevertheless, these are typical cat behaviors, and research points to the conclusion that cats cannot get autism. Cats might also make strange noises that lead some owners to deduce that their pet has autism. This is unlikely, because cats make a wide range of noises for many different reasons. Moreover, these noises differ between breeds.
If your cat is acting very strange, or you suspect something is up, a call with the vet or a wellness checkup is always beneficial. They might be able to identify some lurking issues that explain your cat’s “autistic” behavior.
Some cats get overstimulated — a hallmark of an autistic diagnosis. Some overstimulation signs to look for are dilated pupils, flat ears, and biting motions. Overstimulation can also be the usual reason behind aggressive cat hissing. Other ways to prevent overstimulation is to give them enough safe outlets indoors. If your cat escapes looking for entertainment, they might instead find themselves overwhelmed by the outside world.
Interact with your cat regularly. Carve in some time each day for dedicated play time. Use engaging items like lights, chase the prey toys, and treat-dispensing toys for a set amount of time. Let your cat play endlessly, and they might become overstimulated, obsessed, or restless.
If your cat has reached their boiling point, let your cat be so they can soothe themselves. When they come to you seeking comfort, simply stay by their side and wait until they are ready to initiate contact or play.
Another great habit is to keep their routine very regular. This reduces any anxieties from irregular schedules or sudden changes.
If you’re considering bringing home a cat with some unique behaviors, then it’s important to make certain your whole family is on board. All your family members will need to be invested in creating a supportive environment for your cat. This may involve some adjustments, like giving your cat access to his own spaces in the house where he won’t be disturbed, and resisting some of the habits you might have developed with other cats, like patting your cat as you walk past him.
A cat behaviorist may be able to help you better understand why your cat does some of the things he does. A behaviorist has extensive training in and knowledge of cat behavior, and they can help provide some solutions for behavior issues that you might be experiencing with your cat. Your veterinarian should be able to refer you to a qualified local cat behaviorist.
Your cat might be introverted, very smart, and obsessed with their toys, but this doesn’t make them autistic. In a nutshell, cats can’t get autism, but they can be diagnosed with other diseases. Additionally, they might have physical abnormalities that prevent them from participating in typical activities. These special-needs cats require lots of nurturing and caring, but with you as their pet parent, they’re in good hands.
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