UNKIND to domestic cats: ‘ALL CATS ARE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM’ by Kathy Hoopmann

“ALL CATS ARE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM” is a popular book by Kathy Hoopmann. The author has another book (or is it the same one but an earlier version?) titled “all cats have asperger syndrome”. The title is in lowercase and, as I understand it, it is misspelled because it should be ‘Asperger’s syndrome’. Perhaps it is a deliberate misspelling. Anyway, I’m being picky but I don’t want to be picky about the title in one respect: it paints a derogatory and unfair picture of the domestic cat.

ALL CATS ARE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
ALL CATS ARE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. This picture is in the public domain in my opinion.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

The book apparently uses the domestic cat to help people understand children who are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or who are on the autism spectrum. The synopsis says that she “has an ingenious way of blending the characteristics of beloved kitty cats to showcase the nuances and diversity of people on the autism spectrum”. On that statement it seems that she is equating the behaviour of domestic cats with the behaviour of children on the autism spectrum.

'all cats have asperger syndrome'
‘all cats have asperger syndrome’. Image in the public domain.

Asperger’s used to be thought of as a stand-alone diagnosis but now it is considered to be a mild form of autism and on the autism spectrum of conditions.

But the problem for me is this, and you can’t really get away from this conclusion in my view; the public’s view of autistic children is that they have a mental health problem and that they need help. For example, the CDC in America tells us that “as children with ASD become adolescents and young adults, they may have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviours are expected in school or on the job”.

They can also suffer from “anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder”. So, we have kids becoming adults who may struggle with life because of a developmental disorder which causes mental health issues to varying degrees. They could be mild and the person may be highly successful or at the other end of the spectrum they may struggle throughout their lives requiring help.

Most people will not read the book. They will simply read the title and they see that the author has equated cats with people on the autism spectrum. They don’t know that she’s used the domestic cat to explain autism. Of course, she is very sensitive to autistic children and I would hope too that she has been sensitive towards the domestic cat. The problem is the title boldly states that domestic cats behave like autistic humans. She even states that domestic cats ARE autistic.

It’s a straightforward statement with no margin for interpretation. This reinforces the belief that cats are aloof and independent unlike dogs. This is simply incorrect. The title reinforces a misunderstanding about the domestic cat which in turn can lead cat haters harming cats. We know there are too many people who get kicks out of hurting cats. They are usually young men who were completely idiotic. But there’s quite a lot of cat abuse in the world and we don’t need fancy titles by clever authors writing about a subject which has no connection whatsoever to domestic cats and which can lead to cats being harmed by ignorant people.

The author clearly understands autism and children but it seems to me she does not understand domestic cats. She’s taken a classic image of the domestic cat by people who don’t understand them and magnified it when using this misconception in the title to her book.

She would do well to understand domestic cats better and when she does understand them better, she will also understand that the basic premise for her book is misconceived.

P.S. She uses a picture of a ginger tabby cat on the cover. Ironically, ginger tabbies are known to have particularly nice characters 😎.

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2 thoughts on “UNKIND to domestic cats: ‘ALL CATS ARE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM’ by Kathy Hoopmann”

  1. Hey, I know you posted this about two years ago – but to be frank, you’re the only one here who’s equally being autistic to being bad or not having “nice characters” as you so put it. Yes, people with autism struggle but that’s due to the world around them rather than something wrong with them. Like how there’s nothing wrong with say, how a cat might meow quite loud at random times or be picky with food. You don’t blame a cat for those traits and look down upon them.

    I assume you the writer do not have autism. It would be better if someone who did spoke upon the book.

    Reply
    • Thank you for commenting. However, you don’t understand what I have written in my article. I’m not criticising autistic people. I am simply saying that the author of this book cannot justifiably say that cats act as if they are autistic. It is a bad analogy. I am very sympathetic towards autistic people. And I am very sympathetic toward cats as everybody is aware. You just don’t understand what I have written. And I am not critical of you either. I also don’t understand your comment fully either. It doesn’t make sense to me. Please comment again and try and explain what you want to say. I will be very sympathetic.

      Reply

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