Can Cats Have Special Needs? (Autism, Down Syndrome, More)

Can Cats Have Special Needs

Cats can have special needs, yes. If your cat is exhibiting any physical or behavioral abnormalities, they may have special needs. It can be hard to diagnose, but once you know the symptoms and signs to look for you can provide the necessary care.

Signs of a Special Needs Cat

If you suspect that your cat has special needs, the sooner you can figure things out, the sooner you can start catering to his needs.

Here are some signs that your cat might have special needs:

  • Poor muscle coordination – A special needs cat may appear excessively clumsy and lack the agility that cats normally have.
  • Failure to respond to everyday stimuli – Such as sounds or even hearing his name being called.
  • Becomes clingy and afraid whenever left alone – This is a sign that your cat is confused by their surroundings.
  • May appear to “stare into space” – It’s not unusual for cats to stare, but there is a clear difference when cats are ‘spaced out’.
  • Lacks basic cognition and exhibits reduced memory capacity – If your cat struggles with learning new things, ‘forgets’ they’ve eaten, etc. It’s a strong sign they have some form of special needs.

If your cat is exhibiting some or all of these signs, you should have him evaluated by a veterinarian.

A vet can find out what caused your cat’s special needs situation, as it could be due to past trauma, genetics, or some other reason.

While your veterinarian can give you pointers on how to improve your cat’s level of functionality and quality of life, it is your responsibility as the cat’s owner to identify other ways to help your cat live life to the fullest.

For instance, if you know your cat struggles to make it up the stairs, then instead of allowing him to continue to struggle and possibly hurt himself, find a way to make climbing easier for him.

You should encourage independence as much as possible, but you must know your cat’s limitations, too.

You may need to carry your cat up the stairs in the beginning, but work on helping him to climb the stairs a little at a time until he masters it.

Related Does you cat need access to their litter box overnight?

Can Cats Have Learning Disabilities?

Cats can most definitely suffer from learning disabilities, just like people. However, the intelligence of a cat can’t be compared to the intelligence of humans.

There is no IQ test for a cat, nor is there a way to develop one and expect cats to understand how to participate in testing.

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine what caused a cat to develop a learning disability. Sometimes a cat picks up a bad gene from its parents that causes the cat to be born with learning and even physical disabilities.

Learning disabilities can also occur in a cat after a head injury or some form of trauma.

Severe emotional distress could result in a cat becoming so traumatized that the cat doesn’t exactly have difficulty learning, but it struggles when interacting with humans and other animals.

This is like PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). A cat suffering from a PTSD-like disorder that makes it appear as if he’s learning disabled can recover with treatment, a loving home, and patience.

On the other hand, cats that are born with learning disabilities can learn to adapt, but they’re usually not able to make a complete recovery.

The way I look at it is that cats with learning disabilities are special – and they deserve as much love as any other cat.

Can Cats Have Mental Disabilities?

While vets have limited ability to diagnose mental disabilities in cats, it is known that cats can suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress.

Fortunately, there are treatments for cats, so if you suspect your cat has a mental disability, discuss it with your cat’s vet.

The vet can make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that will reduce your cat’s suffering and increase his ability to function.

Seeking treatment for your cat can make it easier for you as well, as it can be challenging to care for a cat with a mental disability.

However, if you’re patient and motivated to help your cat in any way possible, he can develop the skills necessary to function in the world.

You may have to treat your mentally disabled cat differently than you would other cats, but every cat has its own unique personality anyway, so adapting to a different way of relating to your cat shouldn’t take much effort.

Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Downs syndrome is a genetic disorder that results when there is an extra version of chromosome 21.

Downs syndrome causes very distinct facial features, as well as physical and developmental delays.

Cats are sometimes born with facial features similar to humans with Downs syndrome, causing many people to believe that their cat has this disorder.

However, it is impossible for cats to have Downs syndrome because cats don’t have chromosome 21.

Despite this fact, cats can be born with other genetic disorders that cause facial, physical, and developmental delays, just like in people with Downs syndrome.

These cats may look and behave very differently from other cats from the same litter.

Cats with genetic disorders similar to downs syndrome lack the agility of normal cats and are often clumsy, slow, and awkward.

The first sign is often noticing that they are unable to interact normally with other cats, or even with people.

A cat with such a condition may even be unable to answer to its own name being called and may struggle to function when it comes to participating in normal cat activities.

Can Cats Have Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that is often diagnosed before the age of two. People with autism experience difficulty communicating and interacting with others.

People with autism also view the world in a different manner than those without autism. Some cats can behave in strange, unexplainable ways sometimes, that do mirror these symptoms.

If your cat has been displaying certain characteristics, you may wonder if your cat has autism, but can cats have autism?

While cats can certainly show signs of autism that are similar to the signs in humans, no cat has ever been diagnosed with this disorder.

Most veterinarians lack the behavioral training that would be necessary to diagnose a cat with such a condition.

Even though your cat can’t be diagnosed with autism, there are animal behavior specialists that can help you understand your cat’s behavior, regardless of the cause, and hopefully, help make it easier for you to care for your cat, so you’ll both be happy.

In Summary

Cats can have a wide range of special needs, just as we or most other animals can.

It’s not quite the same as dealing with a human with special needs, but a lot of the symptoms and solutions are similar.

For a lot of owners, it simply becomes a ‘quirk’ recognizing their cat’s special needs. With a little extra love and attention, it’s often nothing that can’t be accommodated.

As long as you take the time to get to know what your cat’s needs are, there is no reason why you cannot build a special bond with your cat and their unique and special needs.


Image credits – Header Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA, cat photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

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