Autism & Cats: Why Felines Are Better Companions For Autistic Children Than Dogs

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 25, 05:19 am

Many are aware of the benefits of dogs to people with certain medical conditions. However, cats are also capable of helping their owners manage health conditions, specifically those with autism spectrum disorder.

A research team from the University of Missouri's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction is raising money to fund a project called Feline Friends, NBC's KSDK-TV reported from The project will study the benefits of rehoming shelter cats with the families of children with autism.

The researchers believe that children with pets develop better social skills than their peers who didn't take care of animals as they were growing up. Cats for kids with autism, however, can be perplexing for others. After all, dogs are said to be better companions for humans than any other animal out there but this isn't the case for children with autism.

Gretchen Carlisle, a post-doctoral fellow at the university's research center, said that children with autism are usually hypersensitive to sensory input. Dogs' extroverted and outgoing nature can overwhelm these kids.

Dogs usually bark at random intervals, are physically active, and are prone to licking their owners' faces. Cats, in contrast, are content lying down around the house and are quieter, making them perfect companions for children who are hypersensitive to the environment.

Rehoming shelter cats will not just benefit children with autism. It will also provide the felines with good homes and people who will take care of them. The Feline Friends project needs $29,000 to gather research-based information for families of children with autism.

The money will allow the researchers to check out shelters and rehoming centers to look for suitable cat candidates. The funds will also help support the families that will accept the cats as companions for their children with autism. Those interested in Feline Friends can donate to the project through here.

Iris Grace Halmshaw, a six-year-old girl with severe autism, is one of those kids with the developmental disorder that thrive in the presence of cats. Iris Grace has Thula, a Maine Coon cat that -- like her breed -- is intelligent, gentle and compassionate, according to Bored Panda.

Thula helps decrease Iris Grace's daily anxieties, keeps the girl calm and encourages her to be more social. Iris Grace and Thula do many things together - taking baths, sleeping beside each other, going on bike rides and so much more. Thula even looks on and stays by Iris Grace's side as she paints pretty pictures.

Do you believe that cats are better companions for children with autism than dogs? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below.

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