Affectionate interactions of cats with children having autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mental and physical benefits of dogs have been reported for adults and children with special needs, but less is known about benefits of cats for children. A cat that can be held by a child could provide important therapeutic companionship for children with severe or less severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who otherwise may lack prosocial behaviors. Because relatively little is known about the behavior of cats around children, we conducted this study. Phase 1 gathered web-survey data from families having an adult cat and a child with ASD (n = 64). In Phase 2, there were direct telephone interviews of parents having a child with severe ASD (n = 16) or less severe ASD (n = 11), or typical development (n = 17). From the Phase 1 web survey of families with ASD children (full range of severities), affectionate interactions of the cats with children were common. Most parents with ASD children volunteered positive comments regarding the cat, such as calming the child, being a soothing protector or a guardian. In the interviews in Phase 2, for all three groups, most parents characterized cats as at least moderately affectionate toward the child. However, cats living with severe ASD children were reported to exhibit less affection than those living with typically developing children or children with less severe ASD. A minority of cats in each group showed some aggression to the specified child; this was not elevated with ASD children. Responses suggested that the cats adopted as kittens were more affectionate and less aggressive to all categories of children than those adopted as adults. Overall, participants reported that ASD children-s behaviors indicated that they valued the relationship with the cat, similar to typically developing children, pointing to the importance and potential usefulness of selecting affectionate and compatible cats for ASD children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume5
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 12 2018

Fingerprint

Cats
cats
Autism Spectrum Disorder
autism
Parents
interviews
Interviews
kittens
Child Behavior
Aggression
aggression

Keywords

  • Affectionate behavior of cats
  • Aggressive behavior of cats
  • Anthrozoology
  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cats and children
  • Human-animal interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

Cite this

@article{739bd38eff3c4e05bed98fea42f39802,
title = "Affectionate interactions of cats with children having autism spectrum disorder",
abstract = "Mental and physical benefits of dogs have been reported for adults and children with special needs, but less is known about benefits of cats for children. A cat that can be held by a child could provide important therapeutic companionship for children with severe or less severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who otherwise may lack prosocial behaviors. Because relatively little is known about the behavior of cats around children, we conducted this study. Phase 1 gathered web-survey data from families having an adult cat and a child with ASD (n = 64). In Phase 2, there were direct telephone interviews of parents having a child with severe ASD (n = 16) or less severe ASD (n = 11), or typical development (n = 17). From the Phase 1 web survey of families with ASD children (full range of severities), affectionate interactions of the cats with children were common. Most parents with ASD children volunteered positive comments regarding the cat, such as calming the child, being a soothing protector or a guardian. In the interviews in Phase 2, for all three groups, most parents characterized cats as at least moderately affectionate toward the child. However, cats living with severe ASD children were reported to exhibit less affection than those living with typically developing children or children with less severe ASD. A minority of cats in each group showed some aggression to the specified child; this was not elevated with ASD children. Responses suggested that the cats adopted as kittens were more affectionate and less aggressive to all categories of children than those adopted as adults. Overall, participants reported that ASD children-s behaviors indicated that they valued the relationship with the cat, similar to typically developing children, pointing to the importance and potential usefulness of selecting affectionate and compatible cats for ASD children.",
keywords = "Affectionate behavior of cats, Aggressive behavior of cats, Anthrozoology, Autism, Autism spectrum disorder, Cats and children, Human-animal interaction",
author = "Hart, {Lynette A} and Abigail Thigpen and Willits, {Neil H.} and Lyons, {Leslie A} and Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Benjamin Hart",
year = "2018",
month = "3",
day = "12",
doi = "10.3389/fvets.2018.00039",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "5",
journal = "Frontiers in Veterinary Science",
issn = "2297-1769",
publisher = "Frontiers Media S. A.",
number = "MAR",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Affectionate interactions of cats with children having autism spectrum disorder

AU - Hart, Lynette A

AU - Thigpen, Abigail

AU - Willits, Neil H.

AU - Lyons, Leslie A

AU - Hertz-Picciotto, Irva

AU - Hart, Benjamin

PY - 2018/3/12

Y1 - 2018/3/12

N2 - Mental and physical benefits of dogs have been reported for adults and children with special needs, but less is known about benefits of cats for children. A cat that can be held by a child could provide important therapeutic companionship for children with severe or less severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who otherwise may lack prosocial behaviors. Because relatively little is known about the behavior of cats around children, we conducted this study. Phase 1 gathered web-survey data from families having an adult cat and a child with ASD (n = 64). In Phase 2, there were direct telephone interviews of parents having a child with severe ASD (n = 16) or less severe ASD (n = 11), or typical development (n = 17). From the Phase 1 web survey of families with ASD children (full range of severities), affectionate interactions of the cats with children were common. Most parents with ASD children volunteered positive comments regarding the cat, such as calming the child, being a soothing protector or a guardian. In the interviews in Phase 2, for all three groups, most parents characterized cats as at least moderately affectionate toward the child. However, cats living with severe ASD children were reported to exhibit less affection than those living with typically developing children or children with less severe ASD. A minority of cats in each group showed some aggression to the specified child; this was not elevated with ASD children. Responses suggested that the cats adopted as kittens were more affectionate and less aggressive to all categories of children than those adopted as adults. Overall, participants reported that ASD children-s behaviors indicated that they valued the relationship with the cat, similar to typically developing children, pointing to the importance and potential usefulness of selecting affectionate and compatible cats for ASD children.

AB - Mental and physical benefits of dogs have been reported for adults and children with special needs, but less is known about benefits of cats for children. A cat that can be held by a child could provide important therapeutic companionship for children with severe or less severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who otherwise may lack prosocial behaviors. Because relatively little is known about the behavior of cats around children, we conducted this study. Phase 1 gathered web-survey data from families having an adult cat and a child with ASD (n = 64). In Phase 2, there were direct telephone interviews of parents having a child with severe ASD (n = 16) or less severe ASD (n = 11), or typical development (n = 17). From the Phase 1 web survey of families with ASD children (full range of severities), affectionate interactions of the cats with children were common. Most parents with ASD children volunteered positive comments regarding the cat, such as calming the child, being a soothing protector or a guardian. In the interviews in Phase 2, for all three groups, most parents characterized cats as at least moderately affectionate toward the child. However, cats living with severe ASD children were reported to exhibit less affection than those living with typically developing children or children with less severe ASD. A minority of cats in each group showed some aggression to the specified child; this was not elevated with ASD children. Responses suggested that the cats adopted as kittens were more affectionate and less aggressive to all categories of children than those adopted as adults. Overall, participants reported that ASD children-s behaviors indicated that they valued the relationship with the cat, similar to typically developing children, pointing to the importance and potential usefulness of selecting affectionate and compatible cats for ASD children.

KW - Affectionate behavior of cats

KW - Aggressive behavior of cats

KW - Anthrozoology

KW - Autism

KW - Autism spectrum disorder

KW - Cats and children

KW - Human-animal interaction

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85043780956&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85043780956&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3389/fvets.2018.00039

DO - 10.3389/fvets.2018.00039

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85043780956

VL - 5

JO - Frontiers in Veterinary Science

JF - Frontiers in Veterinary Science

SN - 2297-1769

IS - MAR

M1 - 39

ER -