Yet another reason to love our fur babies! New research has found that cats can help children with autism, especially if the kitties in question are affectionate toward the kids. Although many kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have used service dogs to help calm them down, relatively little has been known about the role cats can play in assisting them — until now.
The March 2018 study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, found that positive interactions between cats and children with autism can help provide an avenue for positive relationships. "Most children with diagnosed ASD liked to hold the specified cat (or even always wanted to hold, pet, snuggle, and sleep with cat) — at similar levels as in typically developing children," the researchers wrote. "It seems that cats in families with an ASD child often provided valuable bonding, attention, and calming affection to the child."
On top of cats giving kids with autism a helping paw, the kitties may also provide benefits for the children's families. Unfortunately, parents of kids with autism can sometimes be subjected to isolation and stigmatization from others, or might feel the need to be constantly watchful over their precious kids. The researchers suggested that a relationship a child with autism shares with a cat might give parents a brief break in the midst of their busy lives. They also noted that simply seeing their kid calmer with a cat may be comforting to parents — and the heartwarming comments from parents in the study really drive that point home.
One parent wrote, "Our Tonkinese are amazing with my autistic daughter. They understand her moods and needs. They respond to her so incredibly. When she does not bond with humans' touch, she does with her cats. They bring her back to me. They are the bridge I need so that I can enjoy my daughter more. When she has them on her lap, I can hold her hand. They serve as a buffer, a calming energy. They know their role. They cry to be let in her room. They choose her lap over mine when hers becomes available. They are truly amazing!"
That said, it's worth noting that much like people, cats can vary widely in personality, so it's crucial that you don't just pick a random cat for a child with autism — or any child, for that matter. The study emphasized the importance of a cat that is socially outgoing, affectionate, and inherently low in aggression. If you're considering getting a cat for a child or grandchild with autism, be sure to talk to a trusted doctor to see if the child might be a good match with a cat in the first place.
Next, check out the most stunning two-faced cats in the world in the video below: