How Cats Can Help Children With Autism Become More Social

Cats are lovable and cute, but what most people don’t know is that these furry animals can help children with autism improve their social skills. Cats bond with the children by providing affection and attention which promotes healthy relationships.

How Cats Can Help Children With Autism Become More Social

Parents with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might not want to get their child a service dog because dogs might be a challenge to them. Cats, on the other hand, are an excellent alternative. Having a pet enables your kids to learn strong interpersonal skills such as sharing and empathy. The introduction of a cat to children with autism creates transformations in their emotional growth.

A research conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on kids living with autism showed that kids who got pets had improved social skills compared to the ones who never had the responsibility of a pet.

Cats and Social Skills for Children With Autism

These furry friends assist in improving social skills for children with autism.

Here are ways cats can help to transform your child’s social life:

1. Teach Empathy and Compassion

Children living with autism find it challenging to understand simple social cues. Introducing a kitty to your children, especially at an early age, such as five years old helps them to develop compassion not just for the pet but for others. The responsibility of caring for the pet enables the kid to understand other people’s emotions.

2. Relieve Anxiety

Children with autism see and interpret everyday activities in a unique manner, which makes them susceptible to anxiety and stress. Petting, playing or feeding the kitty helps the child to remain calm even in instances that could trigger anxiety. However, be sure to get the right breed for your child; consult resources such as 

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3. Foster Connections

Quality time with a pet deepens the bond between the two parties. Even though the connection is invisible, it can be felt by the owner and the furry companion. It is vital for children with ASD to connect with other people and what better way to learn this than with their pets.

Autism can cause individuals to feel isolated sometimes because it can be harder to comprehend social cues. Cats lack social cues, and they love affection. Connection with another social being provides comfort to kids living with autism. The relationship formed with the pet provides the foundation of creating social connections with others.

4. Help to Suppress Autism Symptoms in Children

Autism symptoms such as not being able to maintain eye contact and feeling overwhelmed in crowds can reduce when a cat is in the picture. Children living with autism show improved social behaviors such as introducing themselves and answering questions. This happens because the kids spend time talking to the pet.

5. Providing Confidence

Children with autism might not be comfortable in crowds; this can make them feel isolated. However, a cat accepts them for who they are and provides companionship even when the kids have a bad mood. This elevates their sense of self-worth and esteem, enabling them to feel confident in social gatherings.

If you don’t know how to help a child with autism, you can get him a kitty because pets don’t judge and they are good listeners. This will help the kid to practice social skills in front of his pet without feeling embarrassed; which builds confidence, and the child can interact well in social settings and with his peers.

Cats help children with autism to improve their social skills by teaching them empathy and selflessness. Since pets don’t have hidden motives or experience mood changes, they can help kids deal with emotions, to practice kindness, and tolerate others. Introducing cats to children with autism at an early age enables them to be assertive and confident, which are vital social skills. When you decide to get a cat for your kid, remember to choose an affectionate, outgoing breed.

Between adult cats and kittens, which do you think are the best for children with autism? Share your views with us.

If you liked this guide take a moment to check out our social stories guide

This article was featured in Issue 92 – Developing Social Skills for Life


Betti Wilson

Betti Wilson is a child psychologist and aunt to a ten-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome. She used to work in school and now runs classes for adults to support them through the challenges they face as the parent of a child with ASD. For more information please visit:

  • Avatar Alex says:

    We have a domestic shorthaired rescue cat that has been really good for our son with autism. He gives him lots of cuddles and sleeps on his bed in the evenings when he is doing his Lego or Dr who puzzles. He helps feed the cat and enjoys just sitting with him. He doesn’t feel alone. The cat is about 2 years.

  • Avatar Mary says:

    I got my granddaughter (12) a year old rescue cat. The cat is fine with me but my granddaughter never wants to put her down. The cat is now afraid of her. I’m wondering what to do. She holds her so tightly.

  • Avatar Ravenna L Walla says:

    When I was a toddler, a certain stray cat would follow me everywhere I went when I was outdoors. It wouldn’t let anyone else get near it. Mom has some old “home movies” that show me walking around the yard with that cat following me and rubbing up against my ankles whenever I stopped walking.

    I don’t think I had even started talking yet, but I had a best friend. We moved a lot, and having a pet would have helped me with the anxiety I had. I wasn’t allowed to have a cat until I moved out on my own.

    Now I’m 57, and I’ve had cats as companions all of my adult life. When one of my beloved friends crosses the rainbow bridge, it isn’t long before I adopt another. I have 3 cats now. One is laying by my feet as I type this.

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