Survey of Autism

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All Cats are Autistic (v1.3)
Based on the DSM-IV Criteria

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to- eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction:

Except when agitated, interpretive behavior is limited. Cats show very little change in facial expression and posture is usually relaxed. Eye-to-eye contact is difficult, as cats are seemingly unable to bear looking into the eyes for a period of time.

(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level:

There is a marked deficiency in friendly social interaction with other cats. Cats must have been in consistent contact with each other for an extended period of time (delayed achievement of "comfort zone") before interacting in any sociable manner and the relationship is tenuous even then. This often applies to interaction with humans, as well.

(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest):

Cats do not point or retrieve objects for others. Cats are not concerned about whether or not their interests are similar to those of other entities. Cats find your interest irrelevant.

(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity:

Cats are concerned with their own interests only. They will not lick your fur for the sole purpose of bringing you enjoyment. If they do so at all, it's either because you taste good or are dirty and need cleaning.

(2) qualitative impairments in communication, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime):

Many cats do not speak, or do so only occasionally. Nor are they able to gesture their needs beyond the very basic, such as leading you to the empty food dish.

(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others:

Cats do not converse well. Even in situations where it appears they are carrying on a dialogue with a person, mutual misunderstanding of each other's meaning is inevitable.

(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language:

All cats with speech perseverate on the word "meow" and its variations.

(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level:

Often, older cats will engage in play which, on a developmental level, is more appropriate to kittens. Their pretend and imitative abilities are limited as well.

(3) restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus:

Cats are generally fascinated and often obsessed with entomology (insects), ornithology (birds), ichthyology (fishes). Sometimes obsessive interests also include string-like objects and ball shaped objects.

(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals:

Cats have little tolerance for changes in routine, including the routines of the individuals they live with. They find it distressing and will often attempt to remedy the situation with control measures (waking you up at 5a.m. on a weekend). Cats also ritually bathe.

(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting or complex whole-body movements):

Cat's tail. 'Nuff said.

(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects:

Strings. Dangling parts of objects. Flying objects. Crawling objects. Single bits of kibble. Shadows. Laser pointer lights.

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 (cat) years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

Not enough study done in relation to normal society.

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett's disorder or childhood disintegrative disorder.

Other Symptoms Common to Autism

Sensory Issues:


Cats are easily distracted and disturbed by a wide variety of noises. Sudden noises are particularly distressful, although very quiet noises are distracting also.

On the other hand, cats are prone not to hear or understand specific words, such as their name or "come", causing them to appear as though they are ignoring the speaker, particularly when hyper-focused on another subject (usually nothing).


Cats typically have hypersensitive smell and taste in comparison to humans. As a result, they tend to be extremely finicky. Few cats will eat vegetables.


Cats are often hypersensitive to touch. They may shrink away when an attempt to touch them is made. However, rubbing/scratching certain areas of their persons can be quite pleasurable to them. These places include, but are not limited to: behind the ears, cheeks, under the chin, and the shoulders.

Self-Stimulation, or Stimming

Purring is an activity cats engage in which increases their calm and receptivity. Stretching and scratching are also prevalent stimming activities. Some cats have been known to make kneading motions on soft blankets and people.

- Alice Loftin

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