Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 14, 2023 by Crystal Uys
A new exploratory study funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Winn Feline Foundation explored the emotional, behavioral, and social benefits of shelter cats on families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD.)
Previous research on how animals might benefit children on the spectrum have focused on dogs, but, says Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, MEd, RN, research scientist at the University of Missouri Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), “dogs may not provide the best fit for all children and their families, especially given the hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD.”
The study found that children with ASD experienced “significant increases” in empathy, while also demonstrating a decrease in behaviors such as bullying, hyperactivity, inattention and separation anxiety. Both children and parents in the study reported feeling a strong bond with their new cat almost immediately.
I don’t think anyone who has experienced just how much cats enrich our lives is completely surprised by the findings of this study. I hope that the findings will encourage more families who are dealing with ASD to consider adopting cats.
The most dramatic example of how a cat transformed an autistic child’s life comes in the story of Iris Grace, a child with extraordinary artistic talent, and her Maine Coon cat Thula, who brought the little girl out of her shell. If you haven’t read Iris Grace: The Story of a Little Girl Whose Talent Unlocked Her Silent World*, I encourage you to so. You can read my full review and find some wonderful photos of the two here.
For more information about the HABRI study, please visit Veterinary Practice News.
Featured Tsarenko Tetiana, Shutterstock
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.