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  • Cameron Mazzeo MSW, LCSW

Opinion: Cats Should Be Autism’s Mascot... Here's why

Posted December 3rd, 2023

Written by Mx. Rowan Quinn

 

~This article is purely an opinion of the autistic author and meant in a lighthearted fashion. Do not take it terribly seriously. ♥~


 



Symbolism for the Autistic Community is hotly debated within said community. So

far, the most agreed upon symbol is a rainbow infinity symbol, to show the

endless spectrum of autistic traits.


But hear me out: What about Cats?


We share a lot of traits, and the pairing of the two might just give neurotypicals

and Allistics (Non-Autistic folks) a better idea how to better interact with us, a

better understanding of how we work, and maybe even a better understanding of

how to interact with cats!


Sound, Smell, Taste, and Texture Sensitivities:

Both cats and autistic folks are extremely sensitive to sounds, smells,

tastes, and textures. A higher percentage of Autistic persons are supertasters

compared to their Allistic counterparts. Autistics also have a high rate of Sensory Over-Responsivity (or SOR) – basically, heightened experiences of and reactions to stimuli. Cats have perceptions well beyond human abilities, rivalling dogs’

abilities... but with a higher ability to differentiate between similar smells and tastes than dogs do! It’s easy to draw a parallel between cats only liking one brand or flavor of food and Autistics having a specific brand or flavor known as "Safe

Foods".


And much in the same way, cats only liking certain fabrics, textures, and sounds, Autistic folks are likely to have more extreme preferences and sensitivities to things we touch. The same way cats generally avoid plastic wrap and aluminum foil, I know many friends in community with aversions to tags in clothing, things like Styrofoam, and so much more!


Sleep Patterns:

Both cats and Autistics need more sleep than most would assume – and

both do so most easily in many smaller periods as opposed to one long one. Folks

with Autism also mirror cats in their circadian rhythms in that we make more

melatonin during the day than at night – the opposite of Allistics!

Autistic people tend to have more interrupted sleep, a higher rate of

insomnia than their peers, and differences in timing of sleep states, such as REM

sleep, meaning more sleep is often needed to feel rested. And compared to dogs and other mammals, cats are much more sporadic with their sleep, but also require much more of it than their peers.


Signs of Affection:

Have you heard of Penguin Pebbling? It’s inspired by penguins gifting each

other Cool Rocks as a sign of affection. But it’s also a neurodiverse love language!

Many of us 'neurospicy' nerds will “penguin pebble” each other memes, literal cool

rocks, and other random little trinkets that make us think of someone. Cats do much the same!


Cats bring anything from prey they caught, to their

favorite toys, to leaves and tea bags, to their favorite person!

Mirroring is also very much a cat love language and neurodiverse love

language. Both of us show comfort and closeness by trying to mirror those close

to us. From body doubling unconsciously, to cats laying on laptops, we show

affection by mimicking those we love.



Parallel Play is becoming increasingly mainstream, but it started because

Autistics socialize best through it. In the same way cats will just lay next to you

while you do things, or play with their toys near you to show affection? We feel

closeness and love by being in the same space as each other. Even when doing

different tasks.


Finally, is our shared love of Deep Pressure – have you ever seen the meme

“Squish That Cat”? It’s a compilation from a presentation by a vet from

Vancouver. Deep pressure calms and reassures both cats and Autistics. It’s a form

of physical affection reserved for those we feel closest to, but it’s also a

wonderful way to calm down both groups when in duress.


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So much overlap, so little time. But here’s my case, and I’m sticking to it.


Next time you’re hanging out with an Autistic friend, maybe see the world

through our eyes – or even a cat’s eyes.





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