I’ve had cats all my life. I love cats. I’m a cat person. And I’ll probably be one of those (please excuse the term) “‘crazy’ cat-ladies” when I get older. It’s probably inevitable; I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen.
I also love dogs. I’ve had dogs off and on, mostly in childhood. Some were outdoor, and one was indoor. I wish I could have one now, but due to our lack of space and our long work hours, it’s not feasible right now. Maybe someday.
Anyway, I love animals. They’re such intelligent, sentient beings. I’m always amazed at how one little (or sometimes, not-so-little) physical body can contain an entire, independent, individual, complete with their own thoughts, desires, emotions, bonds/connections, and personalities. They have their own heartbeats, brain waves, personalities, and even vibes or auras (sorry for my tendency to get metaphysical if that’s not your thing 🙂 ). I love looking into their eyes and contemplating the changes in pupil size and shape, eye color, and facial expression. And holy cow, do cats (and dogs) have the funniest facial expressions!
I’ve always considered myself a pretty dang fine cat-mom. I’ve always existed naturally and comfortably with cats (and sometimes dogs) and I know how to bond well with them. I think my partner and I have sort of a knack for not only allowing, but also bringing out an animal’s personality. We encourage them to be themselves, and we’re keenly aware of it when they do.
Now enter my Asperger’s/autistic neurotype (or, neurological orientation). When I realized that I’m on the spectrum, that put a whole new spin on life, and that newly-spun life extended to my “fur-kids”. I gained a deeper understanding of why cats and I get along so well. I’ve heard it said that “cats are a little autistic, too”, offered as not just a standalone concept, but also an inferred explanation as to why we might tend to gravitate toward them.
I wouldn’t be surprised.
Realizing my neurological orientation, I also gained a deeper appreciation for my bonds with our fur-kids. And I realized just how “fit” a “fur-parent” (my partner and) I am (are). Being Aspergian/autistic puts an interesting (in a positive way) spin on my fur-parenting skills.
(I do realize that not every person on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum likes animals or has pets, and I totally respect that. Maybe it’s a sensory thing – not being able to handle the tactile feel, the scents (and sometimes odors – of the litter box, the cat food, their breath, etc). Maybe it’s a noise issue; after all, they can make a lot of noise. Maybe it’s simply a desire to do one’s own thing without having to care for yet another entity. None of these make anyone a bad or lesser person in my eyes; I don’t think any less of someone who isn’t “into” animals; each person has their own reason(s) (or no reason), and they’re completely entitled to that.)
Anyway, back to our fur-parenting skills… 🙂 For those of us who do love and “own” animals, what is it about our neurotype that makes us so compatible with them? Again, repeat after me: I’m only speaking for myself here, but here are some of the advantages that I’ve thought of…
I’m an animal empath, who often gets along with animals better than I do with other people. I can often sense–and I’m sensitive to–what they’re feeling, what they want, what they need, and so on. As an animal empath, I’m also a sort of warrior/protector, championing for the rights of animals, going to the mat to defend an animal if I have to, saving or rescuing an animal… you get the idea.
When I’m not at work, I’m usually home. I fall in line with the stereotypical Aspie/autist prototype in that I’m not exactly a social butterfly. I tried to be at one time, but I fell flat and hollow. It didn’t work, so it didn’t catch on. I reverted back to my comfortable hibernation, and life was grander (or at least, less stressful) again.
Being home during almost all of my downtime also means that I have a lot of time to spend with my fur-kids that most non-autistic people don’t have (or make). My cats take turns cuddling with me on the couch. It sometimes resembles a fast-food drive-thru; one gets up to get a snack or what-have-you, and the other comes up to sit by me not thirty seconds later.
We usually don’t have anyone over to our house and when we do, they’re trusted and close to us. Once a year, I have a friend whom we invite to come stay with us for a month or two at a time. When the weather gets warm and our activities conclude, she leaves. Aside from that, we generally don’t have anyone else in our house at all. My parents might come visit twice a year at most, and sometimes as scarcely as every two or three years (we usually go to their house). Thus, our cats are accustomed to a safe, secure, predictable household.
When my friend does come to stay, she’s very respectful and non-threatening toward our kitties, and she knows to watch out for them. She’s quite comfortable around them, and the cats’ feeling toward her is mutual. Since her visits are for longer stretches of time, they get used to having her there. Neither her arrival nor leaving seems to cause any upheaval; it probably helps that my partner’s and my routines don’t change much, regardless of whether she’s here or not, so our routines are steady and stabilizing for the cats.
Our home environment is quiet and comfortable. The lighting is low, ambient, and of natural incandescent light-bulb hues. Nobody smokes in our house, nor do we use any chemical sprays, scents, or other aerosols. The environment is muted, neutral, and psychologically correct for sensory sensitivity. The only louder sounds that exist are our nightly TV (I’m losing my hearing) and my occasional music-parties-of-one in the home office, both of which the cats are quite used to and untraumatized by. I’m sensitive to smells and chemicals myself, so they won’t endure any toxic exposures. And the litter box gets cleaned quite regularly.
We’re picky about food, and that goes for our cats, too. Yep, I’m one of those clean-eating, mostly-organic people who scrutinizes ingredient labels and won’t touch anything I can’t pronounce, nor anything that sounds potentially suspicious. I won’t even drink tap water (if you lived where I live, you probably wouldn’t, either; it’s not horrible, but it’s mildly chlorinated, fluoridated, and lord-knows-what-else-idated). Since our cats aren’t second-class citizens or “lesser” in status than we are, we naturally apply the same standard to their food and water, too.
My sleep schedule is odd, which means that I may be awake when they are, which translates to more potential cuddle time (and feeding opportunities) for them. Since we work longer hours during the day, they have free reign to sleep. This means that when night falls, they’ve slept all day, and they’re awake now, wanting to play, cuddle, and hang out with us. Since I’ve been an intermittent chronic insomniac for the past seven solid years, they’re never lonely. And neither am I.
I wear comfortable clothes, so I’m nice to snuggle against. Sweatshirts, fleece or velvety blankets, long-sleeved T-shirts, and soft light sweatpants are like heaven to the cats. They love to come sit up against me.
Our landline is unlisted and we have few people who call us, so it’s even more quiet. Hardly anyone calls us on our landline phone, so the ringer itself has been turned off. (We’re actually considering getting rid of it, since we use it so little.) This means that there’s no sudden jolt of a blaring phone ringing in the middle of the night.
We generally have a routine they can count on; when we come home, it’s dinner time first. Then, after having fed them their food, we sit down to eat ours on the couch in front of the TV, where we eat slowly and comfortably, sharing bits and bites of our food with them. Then it’s cuddle time as we watch more TV (usually a movie), and then we play with them, giving them one last good romp around the house to run off their energy before we go to bed. (Correction: my partner is the one who actually goes to bed; I stay up and generally sleep on the comfy couch while watching TV and playing on my laptop…and cuddling with the fur-kids in turn.)
I love being a cat-mom. I don’t tend to mind their noise and messes too much (although sometimes it can get to me a little). I love feeling their soft fur and knowing that they’re loving every minute of my petting them. Each of them likes to be cuddled differently, and I recognize which strokes they like best, and adapt my cuddling appropriately. There’s nothing more uplifting, comforting, and magical to me than hearing them purr in return–in fact, it’s probably a “stim” for me. 😉 ❤