Cats may make better pets for children on the autistic spectrum because they don't hold eye contact as long as dogs, according to a new report.
Scientists in France studied autistic children as they interacted with their pets and found dogs exhibited more sustained gazes, while cats produced an equal percentage of glances and gazes.
The researchers found neuroatypical kids gave more attention to cats than dogs, as sustained eye contact can be stressful for someone not adept at interpreting interactive cues.
While many dog owners exhibit an increase of oxytocin as a result of their dogs' long gazes, such behavior can increase stress and anxiety in someone not adept at reading cues.
Researchers in France found that cats were more likely to glance at humans and look away than dogs, who exhibited sustained gazes. That may make felines more suitable pets for children on the autistic spectrum, who can feel stressed by sustained eye contact
A team of scientists in western France surveyed 42 children between the ages of 6 and 12, 19 of whom were neurotypical and 23 of whom were diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders.
All the animals involved in the study were family pets, well known to the subjects.
They found that cats exhibited fewer sustained gazes toward children than dogs, and that mutual gazes between the kids and their cats were rare.
Dogs, as social cooperative animals, can use sustained gazes as attempts at bonding or dominance, explained psychologist Marine Grandgeorge, who led the experiment.
The scientists found that neuroatypical children gave more attention to cats than dogs, even though mutual gazes between cats and kids were rare. Previous research has found that children on the spectrum developed better social skills if they had a pet
'Cats, as solitary