It will not be an exaggeration to call cats the most adorable creatures humans have ever domesticated. We love their mischiefs and their antics, and pretty everything coming from them. At times, they reciprocate our love, but at other times, they might try to stay aloof, preferring only to be themselves. Touch them, and they will give you a grimace of discomfort.
These, and many such other behaviors, may get owners into thinking if their cats have autism. But wait, can cats have autism? Are autistic cats even a thing?
To understand if a cat can have autism, let’s first understand what autism is.
Autism: A Developmental Disorder
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental abnormality. The American Psychiatric Association defines it as “a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors.”
This condition has a variety of problems, ranging mainly from communications problems to behavioral issues. But this is in humans. If you wonder, “can cats be autistic?” or “it’s just a myth,” then you are in the right place. In this article, we will discuss everything regarding autism in cats.
Can Cats Have Autism?
The simple answer is no, cats cannot have autism. While cats can be quirky, appear standoffish to strangers, and portray anti-social behavior, there is no evidence to prove autism in cats. That said, as we love our cats and tend to anthropomorphize—we give human meanings to their behaviors. This is why we often end up thinking of certain feline behavior similar to autistic humans and believing that our cats are autistic.
Autism is not just a single condition. On the contrary, it encapsulates a range of behavioral issues, some of which are often mimicked by our cats, which is why it is called autism spectrum disorder.
When cat owners worry about autism in their cats, it is because they display some of the traits associated with the autism spectrum.
How Do Autistic Cats Behave?
Some of the typical autistic cat’s behavior is as follows. But, as we mentioned, it is not autism. An autistic cat is not a real thing. Call it cats just being cats.
Cats have this tendency to show cold behavior to their owners, the way autistic people do to humans around. We mistake their anti-social trait for autism.
However, science explains that cats are trainable the way we want. The anti-social or cold behavior of the cats suggests that they have an issue with their training—they were probably not properly socialized at an early stage of their life. There is a saying that you can’t teach a new trick to an old dog. Similarly, you cannot teach good social skills to cats once they are adults. If you want your cat to be social and well-behaved around strangers, they must be properly socialized at an early age.
Other times, our cats acting anti-social and unwelcoming could mean that they just want to be left alone. Before domestication, our cats were solitary hunters in the wild. Living in our homes, their instinct to be a loner could kick in at times. So if your cat is unwelcoming, you should take your cue and let her be alone. You should wait for your kitty to come to you. A cat seeking solitude may also be a sign that your cat is dying. Don’t worry, just take your cat to the vet to determine the underlying cause of sickness.
Absence of Vocalization
Like autistic people, communication is also a significant factor in thinking about autism in cats. Most of the time, cats might throw tantrums or be standoffish, especially towards strangers. That does not explain autism in cats, however. Proper socializing is vital to make the cat comfortable with strangers.
Most cats do meow and chirp when they are around a certain person, which is often taken as a sign of autism in cats. But it is actually just our cats’ way to communicate. You can call it “catism.” Cta will only be vocalizing when their favorite person is around—to ask for food, a belly rub, or just to get the attention of their favorite ‘hoomans.’
However, if your normally quiet cat has just started vocalizing excessively, you should look for underlying reasons. Read “What does it mean when a cat purrs?” to understand why your cat has started purring and meowing excessively.
Most autistic humans may face sensory abnormalities. Similar to autistic people, cats sometimes show such signs. If cats find it hard to walk or jump properly, or they tend to miss the surface and trip off, it’s not a sign of autism. Instead, these conditions indicate some other health issues your cat may be having and hiding. For instance, a cat ear infection makes it hard for our kitties to maintain balance. Similarly, feline down syndrome causing cerebellar hypoplasia in cats can also make maintaining balance difficult for our feline friends.
Cats are Stoic Creatures!Our cats are stoic creatures. They tend to hide their signs of sickness and weakness. So it might be pretty hard to know if your cat has been sick. Therefore, you should always be observant of your cat so that that you can spot subtle signs of sickness in cats.
Usually, such issues arise when cats have liver or kidney problems. It will help if she is taken to a vet to find out the exact issue.
Super-Focused and Hyperactive
Just like autistic people, sometimes cats are super-focused on certain things. This particular trait makes a lot of pet owners think as if they have an autistic cat. However, this is not the case. Cats can be super-focused and healthy at the same time.
Not all cats are the same. Some are lazy and show impertinence towards their owners, toys, or other activities happening around. Some are hyperactive, attentive, and take a keen interest in whatever is taking place in their home. Much depends upon the nature of the cat breed and the particular environment they are raised in.
Sensitivity to Lights and Movements
Some pet owners also suggest that they have autistic cats because they are fascinated with light and movements or show sensitivity to the former. But, again, this is not a sign of autistic cats. It is how they were evolved. Sensitivity to lights could be a sign of eye infection in cats. As far as sensitivity to movement is concerned, cats were natural hunters in the wild, and they seem to have not forgotten their hunting instincts. If your cat is sensitive to movement, you should not worry. Rather bring your cat some interactive cat toys. Cat toys could be a great way to calm down a hyper cat. More so, having access to interactive cat toys may also help keep cats off furniture.
Are Cats With Special Needs Autistic Cats?
Cats with disabilities—difficulty in walking, vocalizing, missing limb, blindness, deafness, any neurological disability—are called special needs cats. Needless to say, they require special care and treatment (in cases where possible).
That said, a cat with special needs does not suggest that she has autism. It is a sign that they are special ones with special needs. Some cats even have down syndrome sort of symptoms. Such conditions also require proper attention and treatment.
What if My Cat is Showing Symptoms of Autism?
So far, we have understood that cats can not have autism, but still, if your cat appears to be exhibiting symptoms of autism, you should keep the following points in mind.
- They are perfectly alright if they have any physical condition or lack interest in other animals.
- Healthy Cats can show keen focus and attention for a more extended time.
- Cats are not empathetic towards everyone. Like other animals, they can be happy in their comfort zone.
- Cats can have sleepless nights.
- They may be lazy at times and super active at other times.
- Cats may also show tantrums to you when they want to—they are the boss in the house after all.
- They may be less vocal at times, keep checking their health.
- Keep monitoring their behavior if they act differently, consult a vet for timely treatment.
The Final Verdict: Can Cats Have Autism?
No, cats cannot have autism. It is just cat lovers giving human meanings to typical feline behaviors. Nevertheless, there are several similarities between people with autism and cat behavior.
Cats are adorable, innocent, and mood-relieving creatures. Whether they are super-fast, lazy, focused, less attentive, or even have any physical or mental disability, they are still outstanding and fantastic. They may display some autistic behaviors, maybe, because they know that they will be pampered, no matter what?
Despite having similar behavior as autistic people, we cannot say that cats can have autism. They may show, but they do not have it!
Now that you have learned all about autism in cats, perhaps take a look at distemper in cats?