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Bringing a cat home especially for an autistic family member

Discussion in 'Cat Chat' started by FleetFox, Sep 26, 2018.


  1. FleetFox

    FleetFox PetForums Newbie

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    Hi, I am the mum of a 5 year old who is suspected of being high functioning on the spectrum. Nowhere near an official diagnosis but his school SENCO is also qualified to diagnose so we look forward to hearing her feedbackand opinions tomorrow in a meeting. I myself was diagnosed this year (I have just turned 34) when we were asked to seek help from our GP so it's been quite a learning curve but possibly explains why I feel comfortable to the point of giddiness with cats, my son is the same. My partner is neurotypical and a closet cat man that all the cats will happily sit on.
    So! Would love to hear people's stories of getting a cat specifically for someone on the spectrum please? We know it will be a dream come true for our little boy when we bring home , already with our longhair kitten (bought for me on a whim 3weeks agp as her coat isn't up to standard for breeding so she was sold as a pet), he transitioned back to school much much much better than when he moved from a private nursery to the school's summer club, to starting reception, to coping with the Christmas break and Easter break, to coping with summer break. He is with most of the same kids and has the same morning and evening routines always, but it was still hard on him with nightmares, night terrors, anxiety, tantrums. I could cry at the change in him and she's very much my partner's cat (bought for me, cared for by me, very much a daddy's girl ) so I predict good things with this gorgeous kitten we have chosen for him.

    He adores Lily who I have had for 15 years but she clearly was abused before the RSPCA picked her up. She is still nervous of his energetic moments and likes peace and stillness in her old age, especially being quite blind now.
     
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  2. Sacremist

    Sacremist Mum to 2 cats and a dog

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    Welcome to the forum. I cannot relate to your experience of autism, I’m afraid, but didn’t want to read and run. I am, however, a cat lover so understand the joys of being a cat slave. Perhaps you could share some photos of your old girl and your new fur baby when she arrives.
     
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  3. Jesthar

    Jesthar PetForums VIP

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    As someone who is undiagnosed high functioning herself (though thankfully with few of the downsides), welcome! :)

    I'm a little confused, how many cats do you have already? Lily your golden oldie is clear, and I think you already have one kitten and are thinking about/in the process of getting another, but I'm not quite sure if that is the total picture :)

    Cat dynamics can be a bit difficult to predict, and they don't always react how you'd like(as you have seemingly discovered with your long hair kitten), so bear in mind that whilst you hope the new kitten will adopt your son as their special human, this may not be guaranteed. Kitten personalities can also be harder to judge than adult cats. If you get a good match, though, a pet can be just the thing - my girls do a good job at keeping me sane sometimes.
     
    #3 Jesthar, Sep 26, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
    Cleo38, chillminx, Lurcherlad and 3 others like this.
  4. Pixie_Tinker_Bell

    Pixie_Tinker_Bell PetForums Senior

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    I think personality matching is quite important. My friend got a kitten for her son who has Autism and ADHD, whilst he loved the kitten she is a very timid nervous wee soul and didn't play as much with him, often hiding away from him. I think their relationship has developed over time but it's not what he expected having a cat would be like. I think he would have got on better with a more outgoing rambunctious kitten.

    Add into the mix that you already have an older cat, she may not take too kindly to a lively little kitten running around, my older cat finds our kitten very annoying but does tolerate her. Ideally we should have got 2 kittens so they could play together and leave the older one alone. Would that be an option for you?
     
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  5. NFC slave

    NFC slave PetForums Senior

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    I'm not a fan of getting any pet solely for a child, whatever the circumstances. I read it that you already have 2 cats, is this right? If you already have cats why has your son to bonded with one of them? If you go ahead with this kitten, which I'm pretty sure you will, I wish you all luck
     
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  6. Pixie_Tinker_Bell

    Pixie_Tinker_Bell PetForums Senior

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    I agree that getting pets purely for children is not a good idea if it is expected that the animal is the sole responsibility of the child. However if the animal is being brought in as part of the family and all members are happy to take responsibility for the animal then I don't see the harm if it's with a child in mind to benefit them. My old family cat was bought for my 7th birthday with the aim to help me with my fear of cats - apparently I used to be petrified of them to the point friends would have to shut their cats away if I visited. Whilst she was bought for me and to help me get over my fear she was always a much loved member of our family and we all helped to care for her throughout her life.

    Getting a cat whether for a child or for an adult themselves is a long-term commitment that shouldn't be taken lightly.
     
  7. NaomiM

    NaomiM Love my furry, feathered and finned family

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    Hi FleetFox,

    I also have a son who has high-functioning ASD. We adopted an 11-month-old cat when my son was 3 (and at that point undiagnosed). We deliberately went for an older rescue as we could make sure we adopted a cat who would be sociable, unfazed by small children and fairly 'bombproof' when it comes to loud noises etc.

    At the time, my son loved cats, was super-excited to be involved in finding/meeting a cat to adopt, and when we brought Pebbles home my son really enjoyed playing with him using wand/rod toys etc - for a while. One day Pebbles accidentally scratched my son slightly, and since then my son's whole attitude changed. He's now quite scared of Pebbles, and gets upset if Pebbles lies on his bed (even if he's not using it himself) or is in his way, as he's afraid Pebbles might scratch him again. The rest of the time he mainly ignores Pebbles. My son is now 7 and, while he and Pebbles tolerate each other, I doubt they will ever be good friends!

    Pebbles is a much loved part of the family and my two younger girls dote on him, but just be aware that, while your son may love cats now, it's possible that may change, especially if he has a negative experience such as a scratch! You and your OH are clearly cat lovers yourselves so that shouldn't stop you getting another cat if you yourselves want one, but just something to bear in mind!
     
  8. FleetFox

    FleetFox PetForums Newbie

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    Oh well yes don't get me wrong it's not a whim (Clover was) as we have looked at breeders and the big breeds (forest cats, raggies and muffins) with him in mind for close to a year now, the gentle giants of the cat world. I kept my two rescues by hook or by crook in the earlier years including through abusive relationships, job loss and homelessness. On balance, I had to give up my beautiful pup as I have a mystery illness that made it impossible for me to give him the life I wanted and I was near hospitalising myself with trying - and again we spent a fair of time sorting that out after finally admitting defeat having explored all options. Any pets I've lived with are my babies, even if they bond to others in my circle, their status as family members is non-negotiable. I clean up after them, insure them, give them the best diet I find to be suitable, give them individual time every day, their own spaces away from humans and each other etc. I would normally say the same as I've seen 'for kids' pets go so wrong, but while on the surface it is what I'm saying, it's not what I mean. My pets aren't disposable and they're not to be used by us. My cats dogs and budgies were my babies before I ever became a mother and I take them seriously like I do my son.
    So, when we met the two litters yesterday, we looked for the bold ones, even at 4 and 5 weeks old we saw this, such clever little things. Lily loves Ethan and seeks him out when he's sleeping, but when he gets excited and bouncy she will slink off. Clover is all about the man of the house, again very sweet with our son when she sees him as she is Miss Kitty Softpaws, gentle and affectionate.
    What cemented my decision to get an NFC was a visit to the cat cafe, to determine what cat breeds he would gel with. He was accidentally scratched by their Siamese as he put his hand in at the same time another child was offering him a toy. So he was hanging back a bit after that. I sat with their various NFCs and while they are only kittens less than 2 years old, they were so gentle and chilled he visibly unwound with them and started stroking them again. He loves their size, the smoothness of their coats, their big cat faces. Don't want to get massively personal about further reasons why we reached this decision and how responsible we are.
    We have discussed for years with our son who has long said he would like 'his cat' as Lily is a quiet old lady now, and we have found the breeds that adapt best to children, then as he's been in school and we have become aware of the possibility of autism, looked for cats that are best suited to children with similar challenges, introducing him to them via local breeders, researching them, taking him to the cat cafe to see the differences in real life. We do let our pets pick us.

    To clarify the current set-up - we have Lily, a rescue I got 15.5 years ago - her rescue-mate passed away a few years ago, she tolerated him.

    Clover is the kitten we have most recently taken on, she has adapted her manners with Lily wanting space and would benefit from a playmate too, she persists in wanting to be closer to Lily and while I'm home a lot due to illness I suspect she's lonely for feline company as well as human, she's very sociable indeed.

    I appreciate these questions come from a good place as we all love our animal friends and feel we must step in before people make horrible mistakes, but I do feel a bit misjudged and defensive right now.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, good and bad, with bringing a pet into the home with an autist or aspie in mind.
     
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  9. FleetFox

    FleetFox PetForums Newbie

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    I think I am expressing myself pretty badly. Just really excited to talk cats and pets and still on a high after visiting Noynarock.
     
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  10. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @FleetFox - your answer is very reassuring. :) We are a community of devoted cat lovers who take our responsibilities of owning cats very seriously. You sound just the same :)

    Photos of your lovely cats would be nice. :)
     
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  11. FleetFox

    FleetFox PetForums Newbie

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    Yeah I totally get it and I know I didn't come off well.
     
  12. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    No worries :)
     
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  13. mrs phas

    mrs phas karma is a funny old thing

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    When my son moved into his own (but supported) flat I brought him a pair of ginger moggy siblings. He had never lived in peace and quiet, he is eldest of four siblings, so I thought a pet would be perfect
    Having thought long and hard, and, despite being a dog family,I decided on a cat as cats are less 'needy' than dogs and have such aloof and less than empathic tendencies, they'd all be autistic if human ( or ADHD), I got siblings, as I came to the conclusion that, if he was having a non interactive day, then they could amuse each other
    He is now 28 and Harvey and Calcifer are the most spoiled cats ever, in return they have all but become assistance animals, they know when he's down, they recognise his mood swings and are always there for him
    In short, yes get a cat for him, supervise them well when together and teach him how to care for them, even though you'll be the main care giver, and you'll find all will be well x
     
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  14. FleetFox

    FleetFox PetForums Newbie

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    This is so lovely. By the way did he name Calcifer after this guy 140408_1.jpg
    I can relate to the feeling that sometimes only cats get you and now I know why as I've learned a bit more about myself. My son is like me, an out and out cat person though he loves dogs too, cats are his spirit animal. With Lily he has learned to mind his manners, and she has really come out of her shell where he is concerned. With Clover the kitten, he is getting used to having a cat that plays, snuggles and sometimes play bites, so even though we've had cats all his life, this little lady has been an education for him and brings him joy, even though she is very much Daddy's girl. He serves up her dry food and changes her water, I am really proud. Pets are such a gift.
     
  15. MilleD

    MilleD PetForums VIP

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    Can you and your son share the kitten you have got recently possibly?

    You might find that bringing another personality into the fold upsets the dynamic in place, which appears to be working pretty well?

    Also, you mention the NFCs you've seen have been laid back - if you get a kitten, beware that this may not be the case. I have two BSHs and they couldn't be more different, so just breed is not always a dictator for personality.

    Ps, using lots of TLAs there (regarding your other thread) :)
     
  16. Summercat

    Summercat PetForums VIP

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    I think having one kitten, two is better so they can play and interact together. I do think personality is a bit of a gamble as @MilleD said.
    If you didn't already have one kitten, I would suggest an adult of the breed of your choice as the personality will be more set once out of kitten hood.
    Please more pics:)
     
  17. mrs phas

    mrs phas karma is a funny old thing

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    Yes, yes he did, anime is a great pleasure of his
    Harvey was after Harvey two face from batman, as, as a kitten, he would often come for a cuddle, then end up scratching or biting (or both)
    He took about 4 weeks to name them as he wanted to "learn their personalities "
     
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