Study Finds Cats May Improve Social Skills in
Children With Autism
A furry friend could make a big difference in the lives of kids with autism.
A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing explains that children with developmental disabilities showed increased empathy and experienced fewer problem behaviors when welcoming a pet into their home.
Eleven different families with children with autism ages 6 to 14 were surveyed in the study. This was the first randomized controlled trial of adoption of a temperament screened cat by families of children with autism. Families assigned to the treatment group adopted a cat and were followed for 18 weeks. Families assigned to the control group were followed for 18 weeks without intervention, then converted to treatment, by adopting a cat and were followed another 18 weeks. Adopted cats were screened using the Feline Temperament Profile to identify a calm temperament. Surveys measured children’s social skills and anxiety and parent/child cat bonding.
Not only did the study find that the children improved in their social skills, but it also showed that the families created a strong bond with their cats, which remained throughout the course of the experiments and beyond.
There has been previous research done similar to this cat study. This research focused on a child’s interaction with dogs, however, dogs did not always provide the best fit for all children and their families, especially given the hypersensititives to sound that are common among children with autism. The researchers of this study hope that it encourages more families to consider a cat as a pet and help more shelter cats find loving homes.