The likelihood of you personally knowing a child or adult with ADHD is pretty high, considering that it is such a common neurodevelopmental disorder. It is usually diagnosed by a doctor watching the child’s behavior and interviewing people close to them. If you have a kitten or a very energetic cat, you might be wondering if they could have the condition too. As much as they might display behaviors that mimic ADHD, the condition isn’t recognized in cats as there is no clinical evidence to support it.
Kittens and many adult cats can wreak havoc during their bursts of energy by knocking things over, ripping through fabrics, attacking you as you walk, and leaping from one surface to another. However, these hyperactive activities are usually normal and part of the developmental process. To better understand your cat, get to know the five different cat personalities.1
Cat Personalities: The Feline Five
A study in South Australia and New Zealand have identified five distinct personality types in domestic cats.2 These are neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsiveness, and agreeableness. The researchers concluded the following: Neuroticism reflects strongest levels of traits, such as insecure, anxious, fearful of people, suspicious and shy; Dominance reflects bullying, dominant and aggressiveness to other cats; Impulsiveness reflects impulsive, erratic and reckless; and Agreeableness reflects affectionate, friendly to people and gentle.
Reasons You May Think Your Cat Has ADHD
ADHD isn’t well understood but is believed to involve difficulty regulating dopamine. Functional and structural differences in the brain are present and there isn’t just one method for diagnosing a child with it. However, it is recognized as a neurodevelopmental disorder in children and often co-occurs with other neurodiversity. Although some vets do support the idea of cats having ADHD, there is even less of an understanding of this condition in pets.
It’s important to understand that although your cat may display certain behavioral traits that mimic ADHD, it doesn’t mean that they have the condition. Below are a few normal and common behaviors amongst kittens and many cats that are classified as symptoms of ADHD in children:
Children with ADHD often struggle to focus on one task or activity for longer than short periods before becoming bored or distracted with something else. You may have noticed similar behavior in your cat, where they aren’t able to play with one toy for very long before moving on to something else. However, you may also have noticed cases of the complete opposite behavior, where they’re capable of extreme focus. Both are very normal in cats.
Impulsive behavior can be a sign of ADHD in children and can be hard to manage as they often disrupt their class, act before thinking, struggle to wait their turn, show aggression, and snatch things from others. Cats can also show impulsive behavior by startling easily and responding erratically to environments, pets, and people, even when they are familiar to them.
However, this is less of an indication of ADHD and more of an indication that there might be stress factors in your cat’s environment that are making them edgy and skittish. Impulsiveness is actually one of the identified cat personalities.
If a child has a hard time sitting still, keeping quiet in class, and shows signs of extreme restlessness, they could have ADHD. These traits are common in many cats, especially within certain breeds. Some cat breeds are more active and energetic than others and need a lot of stimulation and exercise to release their energy.
However, most cats get the “zoomies,” which are sudden bursts of energy that your cat usually releases through running around your home, attacking anything that moves, and meowing excessively. The zoomies are completely normal and are often caused by their sleep habits and hunting instincts.
Hyperactivity Can Be a Warning Sign
If your cat’s behavior has changed from being relaxed and calm with occasional bursts of energy to constantly being hyperactive, disengaged, or irritable, you should take them for a checkup at their vet. Some health issues can cause new and strange behaviors in cats, and hyperactive behavior can be a response to the pain or discomfort they’re experiencing.
Hyperactivity is one of the many symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which is a condition when the body produces too much thyroxine, which increases the cat’s metabolic rate. With the increase of thyroxine and a few other hormones, a cat can change from being mostly calm to switching to overdrive. You’ll also notice other symptoms in your cat, such as weight loss, an increase in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, restlessness, aggression, and thickened nails.
Jumping, running, and excessive meowing could be dismissed as signs of a hyperactive cat, but they are also symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS), which is a condition where cats have episodes of uncontrollable muscle contractions. It can be caused by neurological, psychological, or skin issues and can lead to a change of behavior in cats. With FHS, cats often have dilated pupils, twitching skin, pain when touched, and often chase their tails and bite their backs.
How To Combat Behavioral Traits of ADHD In Cats
If you have an easily distractible, impulsive, and hyperactive cat, there are ways to try and calm them down. Firstly, make sure that there are no factors in their environment that are causing them stress. Secondly, have them examined by a vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
Once you know that your cat is happy and healthy but full of energy, there are things you can do to calm them down, such as:
ADHD isn’t recognized as a condition in cats, but it’s also not well understood in humans or animals. While some vets believe that it is possible, most behavioral traits of ADHD in humans are normal behaviors of cats. If your cat’s behavior does change or get a lot worse, you should take them to the vet as there could be a health problem that is causing their hyperactivity or aggression.
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