ASD or autism spectrum disorder is a form of developmental condition in humans that can lead to challenges in nonverbal communication, speech, repetitive or restricted behaviors, and social interaction. There are some people who seem to believe that not only humans but also cats can develop autistic tendencies. So, can cats have autism as well?
Can cats develop autism?
Autism is a quiet complex syndrome that affects humans. The behavioral quirks of cats may resemble the symptoms of human autism. However, there is no solid evidence yet that proves that cats can also develop autism.
As a cat owner, you surely love your cat to pieces and you deeply enjoy that special relationship that you have with your pets and that you usually associate human meanings to every behavior they make as a result or what is known as anthropomorphizing.
It can then lead to misinterpretation and confusion of feline behavior that includes wrong interpretations of normal cat behaviors for those behaviors linked with human autism. Cats never think about the world or see it the way humans do.
Resemblance of feline behaviors with autism
Normal cat behavior may mimic autism symptoms in felines. Below are some good examples:
A very common trait that can be observed in people with autism is their tendency of being antisocial. It often doesn’t have much to do with the desire of being alone and instead, it is because they lack the ability of understanding social cues and engaging with normal social interactions.
Cats like being alone as well and this is not because they cannot understand social cues and behavior. There are times when they only want to be by themselves. Cats in the wild have the tendency of being solitary hunters so it makes sense for them to bring their instinct of being a loner even when they become domesticated.
However, not all cats like being alone. There are also extrovert cats that like to snuggle and be social. But of course, there will always be those cats that like being alone and once they do so, it is best to let them be.
Fascination with movement and lights
If you have ever tried using a laser pointer when playing with your cat, you surely know how cats tend to be fascinated with movement and lights. This behavior doesn’t have anything to do with autism and instead, it is more because of the predatory instinct of cats to chase anything that is moving.
Cats need to hunt for their own food when out in the wild and this explains why they possess this strong predator instinct of chasing everything that moves. They brought this instinct with them into the home.
This is why using these laser pointers is considered as one of the best ways of exercising your cat. Just be sure that you let the light fall on a toy or treat so that you cat can catch his prey all the time to prevent the development of light and shadow chasing.
People diagnosed with ASD usually have different sensory abnormalities. Felines can also become too clumsy or they may also show decreased responsiveness. However, this is not considered autism. Once this happens in cats, this only indicates another underlying issue that negatively affects the cat’s health.
Brain tumors, cerebellar hypoplasia, toxins, liver disease, diabetes, and advanced kidney disease can all lead to lack of focus and sensory abnormalities in cats. Make sure you contact your vet right away if you ever notice any coordination or sensory problems in your furry friend.
Kids with ASD usually demonstrate strong preferences for just one specific food or toy. It is not a secret that cats also tend to obsess over a certain toy. They are also notorious for their strong food preferences and they even prefer just a specific kibble shape over another. For instance, your cat may like only the triangular kibbles but may not like the star-shaped ones.
Once again, this is not an autistic tendency. It is just your cat being a cat. Cats are known to have poor sense of smell, relying on their other senses such as touch and vision when identifying their food.
If a cat has been conditioned to only eat the triangular kibbles, you might have a hard time convincing them that star kibbles are also food.
If your pet has been eating only dry food all his life, he might find it confusing if you give him a bowl of wet canned food. To prevent such as strong preferences for food, you can try to feed him a combination of canned and dry food starting from an early age. As for their preferences in toys, you can just let your cat play with anything he wants.
Another common reason why cat owners assume that their pet might have autism is due to the excessive vocalization. There are people with ASD who direct their vocalization to only one person. This same thing goes for cats that only chirp, purr, or meow every time they are near specific people.
It is autism but more like catism and this is quite a normal thing in cats. Cats tend to vocalize only around that one person they have a close bond with or the person giving food to them. The truth is that there are even cats that trained their owners really well and they also know that the moment they yowl at their owner, their owner will give them food.
However, if your cat that used to be moderately vocal or not vocal at all becomes vocal all of a sudden, this is an indication that there might be something wrong. Excessive vocalization is among the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a hormonal condition that is common in older cats.
Can cats become autistic?
Can cats have autism? Hopefully, the article was able to give you the reassurance that cats don’t and can’t have autism. That is, they cannot at least develop the same form of autism that human have. Majority of the behaviors observed in cats that may resemble autistic behaviors are in fact normal cat behaviors. But, if your cat that used to be normal suddenly develops some abnormal behaviors, hides more or acts sick in any way or if you are worried about the psychological state or behavior or your cat, don’t think twice and contact your local vet right away to seek professional advice.