Can Animals Have Aspergers Syndrome?

Disclaimer-this is primarily a jokey post. I do not seek to trivialise Aspergers by comparing the traits and symptoms to behaviours displayed by animals-this post is supposed to be taken in a light hearted way, as a bit of a joke. I believe this blog needs jokey posts sometimes! If you find yourself getting angry or wondering why Aspergers is getting compared to animal behaviour rather than other conditions, I would suggest that you are taking this post too seriously. It is not designed to offend-it is designed to make people laugh!

I have the book “All Cats Have Aspergers Syndrome” on my bookshelf. It was a birthday present of mine several years ago and I found it a fun read. It also struck true to my life because it was a running joke in our family that our female cat,Sasha, had the feline equivalent of Aspergers Syndrome. Sasha was always timid, shied away from interaction with humans and hated being picked up with a passion. Her immediate response was to curl herself into a ball and make a strangulated mewing sound. To put it simply, Sasha did not do interaction. I know that the stereotype of people with Aspergers shying away from interaction completely does not fit many people with Aspergers but, for the purpose of this post, I am using that stereotype. On a slightly more positive note, I have heard people with Aspergers say that they think dogs are likely to have Aspergers Syndrome because they are so loyal, a compliment to those of us with Aspergers who have that personality trait. I have my doubts. Dogs survival as a species depends on them being pack animals and therefore highly sociable, not exactly traits you’d find in 99% of people with Aspergers. I do agree with the loyalty factor though-most people with Aspergers are as loyal to their friends and family as dogs are to their owners.

There are, of course, other animals that behave in ways that, if they were human, would result in an autism diagnosis. I remember being on holiday in Cornwall with my family many years ago and the place where we were staying was near a field that had lots of cows in. On our second day there, we drove past the field and noticed a group of cows standing together and one cow standing on it’s own, completely separate from the others. I instantly felt drawn to this cow and felt it reminded me of myself, always standing on the edge of the social group. My family nicknamed it the “Aspergic cow”. All these years later and I still remember that cow vividly. It did it’s own thing, often on the other side of the field completely to the other cows. In so many ways, this cow displayed another stereotype of humans with Aspergers-it was a loner who preferred it’s own company. I have always been that way and it was comforting to know that other species experience this too.

So, purely as a joke, I would have to say that animals can have Aspergers Syndrome. Of course I do not mean this literally. I don’t believe that Aspergers exists for animals the same way that it does for humans. I do believe that some animals share some personality traits with people with Aspergers. Really all this proves is that animals have as much variation in personality types as humans do and that domestic animals need to have their personalities understood by their owners in order for them to be happiest, whether that personality may closely reflect that of certain people with Aspergers or not. Just because a pet may not be sociable or affectionate does not mean they do not deserve as much love and attention as other more sociable animals do. The same goes for us humans. I think we could all learn a lot from the unconditional love our pets give us. Never judge anyone on what’s on the outside-look at what’s inside and focus more on that.