Can Cats Be Autistic?

Anthropomorphism is the phenomenon where humans treat animals, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena as if they have human-like qualities.

One reason for this is the animal exhibits some human behavior. Those lacking connections may also turn to anthropomorphism. For example, a lonely person will create connections with a pet as if the pet is another person.

This anthropomorphism allows the owner to have a deeper relationship with the pet because the pet transforms into something that is socially and morally equal to the owner.

dozing vector cat image

Sometimes, this phenomenon is taken to the extreme when we give too much meaning to the behavior of our pets. For example, we see the symptoms of autism in our cats.

Similarities of Symptoms

Autism involves a wide range of difficulties in social and communication skills. It is very complex in itself, and without physical symptoms, can be very problematic to diagnose. In this section, we will try to compare autistic behavior in humans to that of “autistic behavior” in cats.

Autistic humans can have a lack of proper verbal communication. In some cases, communication is non-existent while in some cases, they can be very loud when speaking, humming, singing or vocalizing in other ways. Excessive vocalization directed at a specific person can also be observed.

Since we can’t communicate with cats, verbal communication is out of the question. However, cats do vocalize and sometimes excessively. This isn’t related to autism, though, because this is dependent on the temperament of the breed of the cat.

Some breeds like the Siamese are known to be able to vocalize all day long while Norwegian Forest cats usually keep quiet.

Autistic humans also perform poorly in social interaction and find it hard to form relationships with other people because they find it difficult to relate to them. Some even “hate” interacting with other people.

Cats also exhibit this behavior, but may be due to reasons other than autism. If the cat has been socialized from when it was kitten until it grew up, then it will have a tendency to interact with other cats and other humans. If the cat was already mature when it joined the household or if it was adopted and had little interaction, then it may exhibit poor social skills.

Again, the breed of the cat will play a factor here as some breeds like the Maine Coon can be quite independent and usually can be left at home while the Burmese will jump on any available lap and needs a lot of attention.

Another case is sensory abnormality. Children with autism can be oversensitive or undersensitive to stimulus to their senses or their sense of balance and position may be off.

Some cats and kittens can act very clumsy and have poor balance or they can be very unresponsive. However, these symptoms are not caused by autism but by medical conditions such as hidden wounds or problems in their organs.

Of course, there are cases when autism can bring intellectual gifts. In these cases the person can exhibit a high degree of focus and appear to have superior mental capabilities. Again, for cats, this is dependent on the temperament of the breed. Some breeds exhibit creativity and curiosity while some cannot even seem to focus.

Cats, in general, are also very impulsive and unpredictable. They can be interested in an old toy and be disinterested in a new one; or they can forget everything else and simply obsess over a string.

Cats focus on things that they like and appeal to them, not necessarily on the things that you want them to focus on. This is similar behavior observed in autistic children and may cause them stress when they are forced to focus on what the adult wants them to focus on instead of what they want.

As in some kids, a perceived autistic kitten would be seen as lagging compared to their littermates in terms of physical development, social function, and activity. Of course, this could simply be caused by hereditary defects, some form of disease or lack of nourishment.

On a side note, autistic children like cats because cats do not force things into them or make them repeat what they said. This interaction assists in lowering the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies and improves function not just in the brain but the whole body.

Cats also experience this by releasing the “love” hormone oxytocin when they interact with each other which causes intense feelings. In a sense, both autistics and cats are very loving and affectionate to the people closest to them.

There are many other quirky behaviors shared by autistics and cat. Very unpredictable behavior such as suddenly lashing out while playing, turning from happy to lethargic abruptly, or totally silent to making abrupt noises are quite common.

Unusual sleeping schedule in the form of sleeping too long or on irregular hours can also be observed. This is also exhibited by cats because they are naturally nocturnal. It is also in their disposition to sleep for long periods of time, sometimes over 16 hours.

Autism In Cats

No matter how much we think that cats are umans; that they think of us, understand us, or mourn for dead friends, they do not perceive the world like us and do not act socially like we do. And even though they act like they have autism, there is no conclusive evidence of their behavior relating to it.

All of this is simply based on our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets. If we think of them this way, then cats can also be classified as psychopaths because they physically look normal, usually very charming, but underneath is a manipulative and very volatile personality. Think about that when you wake up and see your cat staring at you while you sleep.

However, if you think that there is a change in behavior from your cat, whether you think it is autism or any other disease, bring your cat to the vet to ensure that it isn’t suffering from a medical condition.

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