How Cats Can Help Children With Autism Become More Social

Children with ASD

How Cats Can Help Children With Autism Become More Social

Description: Numerous challenges exist for both autistic children and their parents, but new research has indicated that the interaction between autistic individual and cat has positive benefits for the child. This article investigates more about this relationship.

Promising New Research

A lot of people characterize cats as being aloof, but despite this, there has been promising research to show that they can help children with autism to be more social. It has been widely documented in the scientific literature that pets can help children’s emotional intelligence and make them feel safe, contributing positively to their mental health. Now more studies are coming out suggesting cats aid ASD children, helping them feel calm and happy when playing with them and also developing social skills for children with autism. 

Recent research from the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science has demonstrated that cats are highly affectionate towards children that have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and that they can provide a lot of benefits, making children with ASD become more social. This particular study provides evidence that interaction between children with autism and cats can bring about positive relationships.

Research Methods

A study was conducted whereby parents noted family cat behaviors for instance whether they were aggressive or affectionate, as well as their child’s response. The data comprised of four basic categories, namely; cat behavior, child behavior, sociodemographics, and interactions. Children that participated in the study were typically male and aged between 6-9 years.

Children with ASD

What Has The Research Found?

Findings revealed very positive results for children with ASD, with most cats showing affection towards them. Surprisingly, the level of affection was generally high and the amount of aggression low, suggesting a preference of cats to children with an autistic spectrum disorder. Children generally showed signs of affection towards their cats and enjoyed interacting with them, cuddling and playing with them for significant periods of time.

A large amount of research was undertaken in the form of telephone interviews. Over 40 parents whose children had ASD were interviewed and research was compiled to give data on their children and cat. This data collected also showed that the majority of cats were not aggressive towards their child and for those that displayed signs of aggression, the level did not vary with ASD type. Researchers were also able to determine that the gender of the cat did not have any significant correlation between factors studied. Positive comments were given about child-cat interaction, parents often saying that children loved their cat, talked to it and interacted with it.

Implications and Findings

Living with autism can be challenging, but research conducted has highlighted the importance of choosing a cat with traits that would suit an autistic individual, such as an affectionate, social and calm personality. It is exciting research that has indicated that for the first time cats may have positive uses for children with autism. There are a number of rewarding relationships awaiting for children with ASD and their cat.

Do you have a child who has ASD? Have you wondered how to help a child with autism? Get in touch with us below and share your thoughts.

Author’s BIO: Betty Wilson received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and entered Brighton College, England, in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. After graduation, Betty plans to work as a veterinarian, and begin her career in the field of clinical psychology. With the help of allpetsexpert.com, she helps veterinary clinics and shelters in caring for animals. She often writes blogs and articles about how animals and people benefit each other.

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7 thoughts on “How Cats Can Help Children With Autism Become More Social

  1. Holly G. says:

    I believe this wholeheartedly. My dear friend has Asperger’s. While he wasn’t big on communicating with you unless it was of course a topic of genuine interest, he adored animals. They spoke a similar language. He didn’t have those same expectations that many humans place upon verbal communication. Yet he was able to feel emotion and express in his own beautiful way.

    Animals are very healing and I think the benefits of ‘animal therapy’ (no matter which form it takes on) haven’t even begun to be understood. Cats are just awesome anyway. 🙂 The more we understand, the more awesome they become.

    Thanks for sharing this. It gives hope to so many people on the Autistic Spectrum. ❤

    • Marc-André says:

      Everyone should be allowed to live with animals. Sadly many people renting accommodation struggle to be allowed to do so. :/

  2. sledpress says:

    Not surprising at all! In fact, there’s a book titled “All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome.” Which I haven’t read, but I chortled when I saw the title because I am pretty certain that several people in my life have been Aspies too old to have been diagnosed as such in childhood, and they were all cat people.

    I follow a number of people on Autistic Twitter (yes, that’s a thing) because of these past connections — I empathize often with autistic people because of shared distaste for loud noise, sensory overload in general, and too much social assault — and one of them, a talented illustrator and garden maven, has just rescued a feral litter that was hanging out in his tropical show garden. His small son, also autistic, named them all and they have become, in his words, the new “special interest.” He’d never adopted a cat before! Head over heels.

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