Autism and relating to Animals

I have not yet read Temple Grandin’s major work Animals in Translation but I have read her follow-up book Animals Make Us Human, which is a fascinating work in its own right.  I think I owe it to myself to go back and read Animals in Translation, however.

I have noticed on several occasions in my lifetime that animals, especially shy pets of other people, and especially cats, seem to be able to figure out that I am different from the neurotypical humans around me.  I seem to register to them as somehow “safer”.  They seem willing to approach me, willing to let me pet them, etc, often to the amazement of their (NT) owners, who will frequently explain “she’s never done that with anyone before…”
Or, “Our animals love you, John.”, said by my former mother-in-law.

I remember something in Temple Grandin’s writings about how the autistic human brain is closer to the way other animals are wired, while NTs are more different.  Temple Grandin definitely has a deep understanding of cattle, but other Aspies seem to have a special affinity for other breeds of animals, like dogs or cats. It’s not perfect, nor 100%, but there does seem to be some sort of connection there, some way that animals are able to sense which humans are autistic and which are neurotypical and to regard the autistic ones as “safer”, somehow.  This is worthy of further scientific research.  My own anecdotal accounts don’t amount to much, but they seem to be common among other Aspies I’ve spoken to about it who’ve had positive experiences handling animals.

My Animal affinity seems to be with cats; Dogs mostly scare me and I don’t particularly like them.  Ditto cows.  But I like cats, and cats seem to think  I’m an alright human, or at least more trustworthy than most.  It doesn’t mean I can tame feral cats, but that I get along well with ordinary house cats, for the most part, and I’m  glad to report that we have a family cat that we in our home.

I also wonder if Aspie children can sense that Aspie adults are more like them than NT adults around them, even if they lack the vocabulary to express it adequately…do they also have some inner sense of “this person is more like me than the others here”?  I wonder.


2 thoughts on “Autism and relating to Animals

  1. My experience around animals, particularly cats, is a lot like yours. Animals just seem to “get” us. As far as Aspies children/youth are concerned, I wonder the same thing. However, I’ve not been around enough Aspie children to know one way or the other if they can sense that I’m like them. I do know that children get along quite well with me, and I with them. Maybe there’s something to that?

  2. I’m a cat person too, but dogs seem to like me a lot also. I’m just not as into them as I am with cats. If I go to a person’s house and they have a cat, I have to pay my respects to it. I think they appreciate things like that.

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