Why Asperger’s / autistic people can make awesome cat (and/or dog) ‘parents’

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. 😉 ❤

 

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(Image Credit: Bob Coonts – header; Sandra Trubin – footer)

 

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11 Comments

  1. you have to be single to be a crazy cat lady; (sorry, its the law) and youre married.

    before i got married, a crazy cat lady managed to lure me into her apartment and then date me for a while. id probably still be with her if shed been a little more of a cat lady, and a little less crazy. the cuddling was nice, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, I love animals also. My ASD assessment report noted that my family had talked about my pets and my “extensive knowledge” (meaning special interest level knowledge) about them, currently 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 4 large tropical fish aquariums. I’ve been looking at 3 degus at a rescue centre for about 3 months, no one seems to want all 3 but my husband has drawn the line at more animals in the house. I’m working on him gently 😉😉. Seriously though, animals do have body language, even fish to a certain extent, but it’s very much simpler to read than humans and there are no mind games, animals don’t know how to tell lies 😀😀. I really love dog training and playing training games with them. Better than I like socialising with NT’s who are unreadable and unpredictable.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I love this! Thank you for sharing. I totally agree with what you said about animals being easier to read and free of mind games, too. I have often thought that very same thing! Animals are also much easier for me to make eye contact with, too. They’re so innocent and non-threatening. They’ll never screw you over. It’s like my nervous system says they’re safe, it’s ok to look into their eyes. And that’s part of how we bond. (I wonder if that’s how NT people feel when they make eye contact with each other, or if what we feel is different from what they experience?).

        I see the love in those eyes, and I’m convinced that it’s actually real love. I feel their contentment and trust, and I value that so much. It’s amazing. Animals rock ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. im somewhere between a cat and a dog myself, as far as that sort of thing goes.

        now i just have to find a woman that can read cat and dog, and who can speak english without games (anonautistic cant speak as much as she can write, but shes married too.) someday id like to meet a (single) girl who is actuallyautistic. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Lol CodeInFig, I love your comments! 😊❤️ My partner is a “‘crazy’ cat guy”, though, so it works out lol 😉 One of my mottos is that “Real Guys Like Cats”, in response to the neurotypical macho guys who don’t 😊 But in seriousness, yeah, there are a few irrational cat ladies out there. Not all of us, of course, but plenty 💙💚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy our dog, Max, and our newer addition-a kitten named Vexie, as do my kids. At the same time, I do weary of the care involved when I have so many others relying on me. Could be because Vexie is in the “youthful” phase (everything is a toy, your food is her food lol), because I felt the same about Max when he first arrived. Of course, I was heavily pregnant with my youngest then, my husband was driving truck for a living, and I was taking care of my older three, so adding a needy dachshund to all that was rough for a while, but I took him on for love of hubby and kiddos. lol.Of course, there has long been a layer of resentment where pets were concerned. My mom always has made a point of elevating her animals above the humans in her life and could never understand why I didn’t feel the same. She used to subtly scold me for not being a more “devoted” mommy to my “furbaby”. Ah, but it’s all water under the bridge. Max has mellowed, my mom is a state away, so I don’t have to hear her chiding so much, and, hopefully, Vexie will get calmer as she grows, too. At any rate, enjoyed reading this. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story! It sounds like you have an active household! And yeah, the weight of caretaking can be heavy sometimes. I know that with just my partner and me, no kids, our house would be almost too quiet, so having the fur-kids around makes it feel more lively 😊 But girl, I wonder how you do it! 👏🏼👏🏼❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, S.W,

    This blog made me smile from ear to ear, cuz finally here’s a blog I can totally relate to.
    No confusion, not having to think and think and think, no anxiety-attacks …. bliss.
    I know cats, and cats know me.
    I read them, and they read me. (sometimes they read mé a bit better than I do them. 😉
    I speak their language, as I guess yóu do too. (never met a cat that spoke MY language tho, but we get along fine anyway.)
    I totally love them, and they … well, they allow me to live in their house, provided I do everything by their rules, of course.
    Most of the Dutchies are pretty down to earth and realistic, hence we’re not our pet’s mama, just their boss (dog) or posession.

    So THIS time no questions or whining from me … just a big thank you. 😉

    B.T.W., I love, lóve, LOVE the first painting of the cat, the one on the pillow.
    Did yóu paint it, and if not, do you know who did??

    Goodnight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂 Yep I completely identify with what you said about cats, your mutual shared knowledge, shared reading/speaking, and love ❤

      The artist of the header image is Bob Coonts; his website is http://www.bobcoonts.com/ and he's got an amazing gallery; also does commission work. Talented artist! 🙂

      Like

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