From the article: Cat Therapy for Autistic Children
Cats are slowly moving into their own as therapy animals, and are being used more and more in convalescent homes and other institutions for that purpose. The associated article tells the story of a miracle a cat brought to an autistic child. Readers may contribute here with personal stories about their own experience with cats as therapy for autism or other medical conditions. NOTE: Questions or responses to others will not be published. Think of this as your own mini-article. Share Your Experience
Prissy & Chili Seizure Notification
- It all started with my Priscilla. While undergoing chemo, all I wanted to do was sleep, Prissy would paw and paw AND paw at my chest until I would get up. She was like a mother bear smacking her cub for being naughty. She kept me alive. Then, I didn't realize I was having temporal lobe seizures until my Pris started staring then pawing at me approximately. 30 minutes prior to the seizure hitting. After weeks of this bizarre behavior, I finally went to my doctor and was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I now have her granddaughter, when my brain waves change, she starts butting my forehead and does not stop until I lie down. She sleeps next to my left temporal lobe and when I am up and around she follows me everywhere. My dear Prissy has gone on now, but Chili Bean continues to work. They have been a blessing. As a former ADA specialist, I know first hand, the uphill battle to have cats recognized as valid service animals. Cats are super intuitive to their human's conditions.
- —Guest Izzy
- I suffered with panic and anxiety attacks as well as depression near the end of 2006. I was in therapy for months and took medication. I decided to adopt a kitten one day to have another little life around so I wouldn't feel so alone. Vlad came into my life about a week before my 40th birthday in 2007. I immediately felt I had a purpose, taking care of my kitten. About a month later I adopted a companion for him and added another wonderful little life. Having them proved a wonderful distraction to my problems. So much so I feel I can handle my life a little better and no longer have anxiety attacks. Coming home to my family of 5 cats now is the highlight of my day. I come home and I can talk to them and tell them my troubles and they patiently listen. Cats are wonderful therapists and most of all, great friends. I wish more people would give them a chance. That myth of being solitary creatures is just that, a myth.
- —Guest Nuria
Feline Deprivation Syndrome (FDS) Relief
- Tippy a young maile white medium longhaired cat, appeared out of the blue last week as I was complaining about my FDS, caused by the absence of cats from my life. No sooner had I said this to my superbly prescient friend, Diana, a fellow, Ailourophile, a handsome male white cat with head and ear marking remarkably similar to those of my dog Tippy appeared. He climbed into my lap, making himself immediately at home. Tippy was a Christmas gift 74 years ago, when I was five. 'mmmmmmm', Tippy just added with a walk across this keyboard.
- —Guest Robert
cats in therapy
- Thank you for the article - it reminded me of when I was in therapy myself. There were things that I found very difficult to discuss with my therapist. One day her cat joined us, and she wanted to put him out. I begged to have him stay. With my attention divided between the cat asleep on my lap and my therapist's questions, we managed to cover new ground. Soon both her cats would join us when it was time for my sessions. There is no doubt in my mind of their beneficial presence during difficult sessions. My therapist might feel differently, seeing that I often used the 'distraction' to avoid answering questions I had not yet felt ready to answer. Years later I picked up a stray cat, and not ever having had a cat before, the 'therapy cats', as I call them, greatly eased the way for this stray into my life. From a very uncertain start, he has grown into a big tom, currently asleep on my lap.
- —Guest pardoes
Help Comes in All Forms
- I have had many hard years of psychiatric issues, starting when I was very young. I adopted Annabelle four years ago, at the darkest part of my then diagnosis of chronic depression. She would sit in my lap when I was feeling particularly down and I would kiss her on top of her head; however, it always seemed like she was also sad. So, I adopted another cat named Ducky to keep her company. Time passed, and a diagnosis of depression turned into a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My cats have come to recognize when I am having auditory hallucinations (which can be unnerving) and try to comfort me. Ducky will sit in my lap and purr (and drool of course), while Annabelle will groom my eyebrows and forehead. It always makes me feel better, and allows me to feel like I am not alone. I believe that love shines brightest in the face of hardship, and they have been like little suns to me.
- —Guest Amie
Cats working as therapy pets
- I have had two therapy cats, one who is now retired and a second who is still working. I also have a therapy dog. Both cats and the dog have visited extensively. I disagree with the person who said a cat needs to be declawed, a cat can scratch as easily as a dog can. The handler needs to learn how to not put the pet in a situation where it would scratch, and the pet (dog or cat or other!) must be very trustworthy. My cat and dog currently visit nursing homes and rehab centers, where they will lay on the bed with the patients and even nap. My cat is now a 'reading assistance' pet, where children read to him to help them gain confidence. He also visits with children at a temporary facility while they are waiting for hospital care. Cats can easily be as good at this sort of work as dogs, but need to be calm, able to tolerate all different situations, and very trustworthy. I am always so glad when I see other therapy cats join! -Patty & Mokey and Muppet, the therapy cats, & dog Crystal
- —Guest Patty
My own experience with autism
- As far as I know (this has never been officially diagnosed, but I am confident it is the case...!) I suffer from "Asperger's Syndrome," which is a form of autism! As well, I have been owned by at least one cat since 1973, when I first left my family home! I find that cats mirror my own personality...and are thus MUCH easier to relate to than dogs (whose deference to their "owners" can be easily explained by the concept of "Dominance Hierarchy!"). Currently, I am "owned" by Ecru (the ecru cat), who was an "only kitten" of "Mama Cat," a feral dilute tortoise-shell who took up residence at my abode (to my delight!) a year or two after I moved in! Essentially, I CANNOT comprehend my fellow humans...however, I CAN comprehend my resident cat(s)! Ecru is my own personal "therapy" for my clinical depression! Steven C. Barr firstname.lastname@example.org
- —Guest Steven C. Barr
Along came a chatty Cat
- My daughter is also living with Autism. She has Asperger's Syndrome which is considered a less severe form of Autism. She struggled with emotional attachments, and understanding that others had feelings and responded to her displays of emotion. Then we adopted a Calico cat with a touch of Siamese in her bent tail. We named her Mystique and she bonded with my daughter. Mystique talks and rowels, purrs and cuddles with my daughter. And she puts up with being held, snuggled, being stuffed into the front of a sweat shirt and sleeping at the foot of the bed. But she also listens and responds to My girl's long involved conversations. I often get the feeling that Mystique understands English, in particular English as filtered through an Asperger's mind. My daughter has learned empathy as well as learning to express affection in cat acceptable ways. Mystique is a miracle cat, she is also an art critic. When Mystique likes a drawing she lets you know.
Along came chatty cat
- Many readers may be unfamiliar with the autism spectrum. Autism has degrees of severity. At the one end is the person who has autism with co-morbid mental retardation. This person usually has poor self-help skills and needs assistance in the most basic things such as preparing a meal. At the other end there is the "high functioning" person who has average to above average intelligence. This person goes to school, can get a degree, marry, raise a family, and have a career. Pure autism is a communiction disorder in the brain. Contrary to what one may suspect, people with higher levels of intelligence, but are on the autistic spectrum suffer more. They need some living being to connect with who understands them and who serves as a mentor on communication. Cats provide that kind of mentoring, because they are patient. They also use body language that the person must learn to translate into words and ideas. This responds to the very area where people with Asperger struggle.
My Cats Saved My Life
- I was in the hospital, not expected to live, suffering from some strange wasting disease. I had 8 cats at home, no family, only a neighbor who was feeding them. I knew if I died, they would too. This knowledge gave me the push to hang on until whatever I had ran it's course and I recovered. I was hospitalized for a month, in and out of a coma. Needles to say I'm back and all my cats lived to their teens. They are at the "Rainbow Bridge" now and I am starting a new cat family.
- —Guest Mitch Mason
Making me live life
- My cat's job is getting me out of bed in the morning. Some how he understands thar Mum has a depressive illness He is focused and relentless. He is my best friend. He needed rescuing and so did I. We've been together for 8 loving years.
- —Guest Julie Anderson
- I have high-functioning autism, depression and anxiety, and I live with a one year old cat named Sabrina, plus my mother's cat who's been around since I was 11. I have lived with dogs as well, but its much harder too feel safe or calm around them because dogs are so loud and unpredictable. The cats help to keep me calm, they help to ease the depression, the isolation and loneliness, and are the only ones I can comfortably express emotion towards and feel close to. They don't let me lie around in bed all day, and are a reason (sometimes the only reason) that I don't commit suicide (I can't leave them behind). For me, they have been better than therapy, and much less expensive.
- —Guest Cathryn
- I have been privileged to live with several beloved cats for the past 50+ years. Now that I am elderly and badly disabled with arthritis, I recognize even more what blessing my cats are to me. At my age, many close friends are either gone or suffering with dementia, so I don't have the active social life I enjoyed when I was younger, but my cats (two at the present time--both rescues) help me stay rational during the many days when I have no one else to talk to. I try to take care of them the best way I can, despite some real physical difficulties. I don't know how I could make it without my loving companions.
- —Guest B. J.
Smudge the buddy
- I owned a gentle nurturing female short hair black and white cat we called Smudge. She loved kids. I began to worry when she would go away in the morning and not return until quite late. One day my neighbor who lived across the way with his autistic grandchild came to me and told me that my cat had been spending every day with his autistic grandson. She would jump up on his lap and purr. The boy loved ths and would talk to that cat for hours. Unfortunately, our Smudge (cat) contacted a cancer and we had to put her down. I buried her out in back by her favorite climbing tree. One day there wasa tap tap on my back door. Ther little boy was there (6 years old, blond sad blue eyes) with his grandpa. He asked if he could put flowers on his friends's grave. It was all I could do to hold back my tears. He went there, laid then gently and said "I loved her". I had no idea of the beautiful and rich communication they shared. I shall never forget it.
- —Guest Bob Jefferson
- Words can't express how much we love our kitty...we were recently watching the horrible news about the shooting in Connecticut, both my boyfriend and I crying in disbelief when our beautiful 4 month old Maine coon kitten, Leona, came up to me, licked my tears away and gently stroked my face with her paw as if saying "it's ok mommy, I'm here for you" my heart just melted, she is so loving and kind, I never imagined how much love and companionship these little babies share. I am in love with her, she's the apple of my eyes and I truly believe that our life is one hundred percent better just by having her with us.
- —Guest July C
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