Parents of autistic children are especially concerned at introducing changes into their children's lives as even small changes can affect their child's behavior.
An exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism highlighted some positive benefits for parents potentially considering a pet.
The study was funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Winn Feline Foundation and the research was led by a team from University of Missouri (MU)
The study was the first randomized controlled trial of cat adoption in families of children with autism and the team explored the emotional, behavioral and social benefits of shelter cats on both the families and the children.
The families were allocated a cat, divided into 2 groups and separately surveyed over a period of several months.
The shelter cats were temperament screened for calmness prior to the study.
Research surveys were collected every 6 weeks and were designed to measure he children's social skills and anxiety and also the parent's and child's bond with the adopted cat.
The study showed some interesting and positive findings.
The children experienced "significant increases" in empathy.
The children also demonstrated a decrease in separation anxiety.
Behavioral changes in the children also included a decrease in bullying, hyperactivity and inattention.
Positively both children AND parents reported feeling strong bonds with the adopted cats and these bonds didn't diminish over time.
The study showed that adopting a cat can bring positive benefits to both autistic children and their parents.
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