Children with autism could benefit from family cats based on a study. A shelter cat could help improve empathy in children with ASD and help reduce separation anxiety.
Learns responsibility when caring for an animal
University of Missouri Human-Animal Interaction Research Center scientist, Gretchen Carlisle, explained what they found in their study. She said that companion animals, like cats, in general unconditionally accept and listen to someone talking. She also said that a person learns responsibility when caring for an animal.
Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that affects not only social skills but also communication and impulse control. According to the US CDC, one in 54 children is affected by the disorder.
The research team studied 11 families with children with ASD with an age range between six and 14. They let the families adopt a shelter cat for 18 weeks and used standardized social skills and anxiety scales to check how a child would respond well to a pet.
An instant bond between the cat and the children with ASD
Including screening the cats for temperament, the team found an instant bond between the cat and children with autism. Over time, the bond remained strong even though there is an added responsibility with caring for the pet.
Over the study period, the research team found decreased separation anxiety, bullying, and overactivity in children with autism. The kids showed more empathy after adopting the shelter cat.
Carlisle explained that while it does not mean that cats are better pets than dogs, she said that feline companions are better for children with ASD and their families. She explained that the children with special needs might have sensory issues.
She added that children might get overwhelmed when a dog barks. On the other hand, a cat would sit beside you and prevent sensory overwhelming, Carlisle said.
Benefits of cats to physical and mental health
Here are science-backed proofs that show the benefits of owning a cat as a pet in your physical and mental health.
Researchers found that people who own cats had a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure than those who did not. A study showed that people who have feline pets felt more challenged than threatened when given a stressful task.
Cat-owners have better psychological health than others who are not. One Australian study's subjects revealed that people who own cats feel more confident, happy, and less nervous. Apart from that, they can also sleep, focus, and face problems better in their lives.
Benefits human relationships
Studies prove that people who own cats trust other people more, are more socially sensitive, and like other people. A cat or dog person would usually think that other people like them than others who do not.
Eastern Kentucky University's Rose Perrine and Hannah Osbourne wrote that people who have positive feelings about cats or dogs help them feel good about other people. It makes them show kindness and generosity toward others.
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