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Is my cat autistic, psychotic, or what?
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Is my cat autistic, psychotic, or what?

I've had my 5-month-old kitten, Koali, since he was 5 weeks old. when his mother started rejecting him. He was the only survivor of the litter at birth and his mother was a very good mother to him. He's a Siamese mix, has slightly crossed eyes, and is very loving.

His behavior seemed normal until a couple of weeks ago. I've always put him in a large cage in my bedroom at night so I can get some sleep; food and water bowls are attached to the inside of the cage door. Right before I get in bed I take him out again for a few minutes of cuddle time in my arms, then put him back in, and he has always been fine with all this.

A few days ago he was scheduled to be neutered the next day, so when I took him back out of the cage for cuddling, I removed the food bowl. When I put him back in, I saw him looking for the food bowl but I didn't give it much thought and walked away. After a moment, it sounded like an earthquake in my bedroom so I ran in and he was RACING around the sides of the cage with a look of complete TERROR in his eyes, hurling himself at the door and everywhere else trying DESPERATELY to get out.

For some reason I knew instantly that it was because the food bowl was missing, so I grabbed it, opened the cage door, and he BURST out. Then the insanity stopped and he just stood there, so I replaced the food bowl in its usual spot. He seemed fairly calm so I picked him up and spoke soothingly to him, but when I tried to put him back in the cage he bolted the other way.

After a few minutes I picked him up again and showed him that the food bowl was back in its usual place and he needn't be afraid. This time he went back in just fine and there has been no more bizarre behavior.

However a couple of weeks earlier he had started becoming TERRIFIED if he saw me carrying anything or wearing a long skirt instead of my usual jeans. But as soon as the bag or whatever was gone and I was back in my jeans he was fine again.

My two theories are autism or mental illness-- the latter because I know that when humans hit puberty it can bring out latent psychiatric issues and since his testicles are now very prominent, he HAS hit puberty. (I had to cancel the neutering appointment, but will reschedule it soon.)  

Since the food bowl incident there have been no obvious problems, except the aforementioned fear of me carrying something, etc.-- he's acted like any other normal, loving kitty,and without a trace of fear about going into the cage at night. My vet doesn't have any theories about all this, so I'm hoping somebody out there can help me solve this puzzle. Koali is SUCH a little sweetheart and I adore him! What could possibly be going on with him?
Tags: cats, autistic
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17 Comments Post a Comment
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134578_tn?1404951303
I wouldn't assume he is autistic or mentally ill.  Cats are perfectly capable of going from zero to sixty in one second.  They can go from sleep to running in an eyeblink if something startles them.  Maybe he is just scared of big objects, and he was restless or took it hard that the food bowl was gone, and he's got a lot of energy.   We once had a cat who took off running for dear life when he saw my dad coming into the room carrying a wallpaper steamer machine.  But he was a totally normal cat.  Once he's neutered, things might settle, or he might be a bit spooky all his life at unusual things.  I'd try not to be too concerned -- once he grasps that he can get your attention (especially, get out of the cage) by running frantically around, he's likely to do it more.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you for responding. It wasn't so much the running around that worries me, it was the look of absolute TERROR in his eyes, as though a thousand demons were after him. And as I said, he exhibits similar TERROR even when out of the cage if either me or my brother (who lives with me) come into the room carrying a bag or something.

Also, just since the missing bowl incident, I've noticed that when I first put him in the cage, whereas he formerly settled right in and started eating or something, now he just stands there at full alert and checks out everything in the cage to make sure there are no changes or surprises before he can relax and start eating or whatever.

In other words, he doesn't just DISLIKE even small changes, he's absolutely TERRIFIED of them.

I thought of the autism because I've known a few autistic children and some of them WAY overreact to even the SLIGHTEST change, often by running around and screaming or similar behaviors. It's just heartbreaking, in people and in animals.

Anyway, thank you again for the response. I appreciate it!  
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587315_tn?1333556383
No, I don't think your cat is psychotic!!!  LOL

I just think that he KNEW he was going to the vet!  I have no idea how they know, but most of them do!  Maybe it's a sixth sense they have!!  My cats have always known the day before that they are going to the vets, and they will hide or start acting weird!

Your kitty will be fine!!  =)
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi, I have a young male cat I think is autistic too.  I have read a lot of forums where people have asked this question, and a lot of people are very dismissive of the idea.  Im not.  I have had cats all my life.  Literally, I have pictures of one in my crib with me.  I have had bunches, I have bottle fed them for rescue groups, and have had contact with hundreds of cats in my life.  As well as having owned many with whom I have daily loving contact.  In other words I know cat behavior very, very well. I know cats seem aloof and skittish to many people, but I think what you are talking about is a whole other thing.  I think your cat MAY be autistic.  

My cat is not afraid of change to the same degree yours is, but he is way more afraid and aware of minor changes than any other cat I have ever had.  He doesnt make good eye contact, he acts inappropriately with me and the other cats, in ways that show is doesnt empathize with your feelings.   (he steps on them, hard, when we walks up for affection, and they avoid him because he will sit on their head, or something else just not sensitive to their feelings, he bites, hard, at weird times and without anger or aggression) He is drawn to affection from his brush, but not snuggles or pets from hands.  He likes stuffed animals to sleep with, but not his siblings. He just has a lot of behaviors associated with autistic children.  

Bottom line, I think there is something that is causing the symptoms of autism to start showing up in cats.  I just think maybe it is sort of new, like it is in humans, and veterinary science hasnt really caught on to it yet.  It might open up new lines of thinking about the condition if someone in the medical community would pay attention to it.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you so much for your reply! I agree 100% with everything you said! Koali is 10 months old now and continues to be EXTRAORDINARILY loving and affectionate, but I STILL have not been able to get him neutered because of his absolute TERROR of anything new. Fortunately he's an indoor-only kitty (as are my others)) and the others have been spayed/neutered so there's no problem with reproducing. I'm still working on finding a solution to getting him into a carrier (he used to be fine with that, but not any more) to go to the vet. I've tried leaving it open in the room with him every day but he's the only one of my cats that DOESN'T go in it! Anyway, it's so good to know that I'm not alone in my theory about autism. Thanks again!      
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681148_tn?1285160820
My cat hates her carrier.  I agree with AnnieBrook that he just knew he was going to the vet.  I leave her carrier where she can get to it with the door open all the time, but she won't voluntarily go in it--ever.  If she hears the sound of the carrier door at all, even if I only bumped it accidentally, I don't see the cat for about half an hour.  On the days she does go to the vet, she soils the cage, even before I get her in it.  I have to fight with her to get her to go in.  Then, she yowls the whole time she is in there.  I have to take her in the taxi (we're fairly close) because of the cage soiling and the yowling.  It makes the trip much shorter than if I were to try to take her on the bus.  They always clean up her cage and clean her up when I take her.  They say a lot of cats do this and said that it's called stress incontinence.  When I'm at the vet's office, I hear a lot of cats protesting about being in the carrier and being at the vet's office.  If Akira is home and I'm getting ready to take her to the vet, she will even rattle the cage door, because she wants out.

Akira will willingly go into the carrier if she is at the vet's office and I tell her we're going home.  The vet theorizes that it's the only thing at the vet's office that is familiar.

The funny thing of it is that kitty will sleep on top of her carrier all she wants to and is just fine with that.  I put a piece of faux fur on top of the carrier to make her more comfortable.  I laugh, because she knows very well it is the carrier she is sleeping on top of.  She is fine with it being used as a kitty perch, as long as she isn't IN it.
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757137_tn?1347200053
I have seen two cats turn psychotic. In both cases it was not an off-again-on-again thing. Although there were signs before that these cats were not entirely normal, once they showed overt psychotic behavior, there were no normal periods. Each became exceedingly dangerous. If you look at their eyes the condition is obvious.
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Avatar_n_tn
That's fascinating! I've never seen what you're describing-- what is it about the eyes that makes it obvious?
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757137_tn?1347200053
The eyes are the same as when a person has a psychotic episode. It is very hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. My first experience was with a human. In that case the eyes were shiny and simply not normal. Maybe the pupils were dilated. The look was crazy and alien - feral and scary. All I can say is that you know it when you see it and you don't need to have an MD.

Both cats I mentioned were exceedingly dangerous. (Again - crazy eyes.) In one case the cops were called. They were too frightened to capture the cat and called animal control. In the second case, while wearing protection, my husband forced him out of the house. He was never seen again. Thank goodness!
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Avatar_n_tn
My kitty seemed normal til we realized she cant see and waves her paw around in front of her like to "see" for her.. but at times she seems to see OK? Also she is not cuddly and seems numb to our cuddles but not to us in general and she loves to play and negotiates items and does well to get around fast and quick for the  most part. But she also sometimes wanders into the laundry room when our other cat opens the door when we dont notice. She gets in there and just ends up in a corner and when we go to get her she will hiss and snarl as we pick her up as though she is scared of us then she adjusts back to normal-ish for her and that takes about 10-15 minutes til she stops hissing at anything around her that grazes her or touches her. If she gets into the laundry room for only a few seconds she is fine. It's when she sneaks in and gets left in there for more than 10 minutes that she shows the snappy snippy behaviour. My husband wont even pick her up when she does this. I go and scruff her and get her that way so she complies and feels secure. Then I just put her on our bedroom floor which i directly adjacent to the laundry room and she "looks" around and slowly walks back around the house and then gets OK within a few minutes or so.. She too is the sole survivor of the litter although we don't know if she had siblings to begin with and her bio-mom did not give her hardly any attention but since she was in the house we gave her attention everyday.. So we just don't know what it is! It's clear either she cant see or has no stimulation from toys. She also is afraid when our outdoor cats try to interact with her. When she was a little kitten we'd let them play together but soon they got more agressive in play and she freaked when one swiped at her face one day. She hissed and spun around and around hissing and swiping as though she couldn't see but was gonna try to fight her way out!?... anyhow, I cand find much information about it! <3 (,,,)=^t^=(,,,)
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535822_tn?1389452880
My Tweety hates seeing me dressed up to go out,she also doesn't like shopping being brought in I think the DH accidently bumped her with a bag, you know the way cats get under under ones feet . Maybe I have been lucky I havent seen a mental cat .. well I have seen 2 that were kept in and they were very upset all the time ..jumping all over and spitting at us, , maybe they werent used to it.later when I went  back to visit  they slept all the time,made me sad. ...
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Avatar_m_tn
Well, a well known scientist with Aspergers once pointed out the similarities between humans with autism and animals---saying that fear is a common denominator.  I do not recall the rest of the article, but it does show that mental conditions are a continuum and that there is not always a pure "normal".

Willy, my cat, will meow and meow if he is in another room, like a female in heat, seemingly looking for my wife, me or perhaps Alice, his partner. Both are rescues--he was abandoned by his human owners at birth we think, and he kneads his paws all the time.  Een if he voluntarily goes into another room, he will meow until I poke my nose in and then he comes running, relieved.   Mental illness?  Emotional problems?  Who knows?

The fact is he and all cats have emotions and needs and when we interact, we often are hard pressed to understand what those needs are...
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681148_tn?1285160820
I do agree that cats are as emotionally needy as humans are.  Mine certainly is.  Sometimes I have no idea what she is telling me.  Other times she gets the "cat crazies", but I have discovered that usually she is inviting me to play with her when this happens.  It can be rather humorous.
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Avatar_m_tn
Well I actually am autistic so I think I know the symptoms pretty well. One thing I know for sure is that there is not just one kind of Autism. Autism has a whole spectrum. Low functioning autism is generally what people think of when they hear that word. People with low functioning autism usually act severely peculiar, doing thing such as rocking and not communicating. The people on the high end of the spectrum however may be more affectionate and communicate quite well. Even the higher functioning people though may have similar quirks as the lower fuctioning people.

I happen to have a cat that I think may be autistic aswell. She has very strange behavior and does things like crashes her head into walls and windows and then seems fine afterwards ( I apparently did something very similar as a baby). She also talks very very much and is extremely affectionate to the point of her smashing her head into pillows and people to snuggle them. She often races oround the house chacing things that seem to not even be there. She is constantly hungry and will eat almost anything (this is common for some autistic people aswell). Finally she also shares something in common with alot of the other cats mentioned here, the crazy eyes.
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