Having pet cats can help children with autism to improve social skills as well as bring down instances of aggressive behavior, as per a new study. Despite a small sample size, the study concluded that in cases where the kids bonded with the cats, they were calmer and less hyperactive.
Titled “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety”, the study was authored by Gretchen K. Carlisle of the University of Missouri Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, Rebecca A. Johnson, Ze Wang, Jessica Bibbo, Nancy Cheak-Zamora, and Leslie A. Lyons. Carlisle said that while studies about the effects of having dogs as companion animals on children had been conducted, there was no such study on any other pet. The study was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.
Explaining the reason for selecting cats for this study, the author said, “Cats are usually calmer and less excitable than dogs. They also require less looking after. These qualities name them a better companion animal for the kids with autism.” However, she warned that the cats had to be tested for a calm temperament before introducing them to the kids.
The result of the study based on this small sample group was “greater Empathy and less Separation Anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including Externalizing, Bullying and Hyperactivity/Inattention.” They concluded that the introduction of cats can help improve social skills and have a positive effect on the behavior of kids with autism, though stressing the need for establishing the results with a bigger sample size and by including other pets like rabbits and hamsters.