Pets Reduce Stress in Households with Children Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorder


Because parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than parents of children with typical development, it’s logical to assume they would be uninterested in taking on the added burden of having a pet in the household. But the opposite is true. They feel that owning a pet helps increase their relaxation in the majority of cases and reduces their stress. So suggests a survey of 764 parents of children with ASD reported on in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Almost half the respondents had a cat in the home, either by itself or with a dog.

The majority reported that their children benefited from having a pet, too. The children enjoyed a close bond with their pet and the relaxation the pet’s company provided.

For some families, “cat ownership may be more helpful than a noisier dog due to hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD,” say the researchers, working from the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

They also stress that because some children with ASD may unintentionally cause physical harm to pets (just like typically developing children), interaction between the child and the pet should always be closely monitored. In addition, every effort should be made to match the child with the pet before adoption (or during a trial period before an adoption is finalized) and to address with professional help any problems that may arise from interactions between the two.


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