Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | June 5, 2015

How being autistic makes me a great pet parent

First off, welcome to all my new blog followers! I’ve never been “freshly pressed” before, so it’s been quite an adventure. I hope this post doesn’t disappoint!

This year, for me, is a year full of extensive and intense research travel. This summer, my research is taking me to a new state, across the country from where I currently reside. This means that I have to move, both me and my cat, across the country. Initially I was going to fly, but after some good advice and a lot of thinking, I decided that I wasn’t living somewhere where the public transportation was good enough for me to easily get food and take the cat to the vet without a car, so instead of flying, my cat and I will be driving over 2500 miles to our new (temporary) home. This is a stressful trip for anyone, but add in a sweet, but nervous cat in poor health, and you have quite a challenge. For those of you who are new, my cat, M, is incredibly sweet – here’s some posts about him.

Luckily for me, I’m autistic, and as a consequence, I have a lot of trouble with transitions and big changes like this. Why luckily, you ask? Because I’ve had 25 years of experience in handling them, and I’ve spent the past 6 years thinking extensively about my neurotype and how to best accommodate myself and survive the “real world”. Thanks to learning about autism, I’ve been able to break things down and find little steps to help make myself more able to deal with big, scary changes. Self-awareness really is an amazing thing, isn’t it? So in addition to preparing myself for this journey, I’ve employed a similar tactic to this for my cat, to work up to the big trip with as little stress as possible. Rather than just packing up and putting M in the car on the day I leave, I’ve spent the past several weeks preparing M to drive cross country. Here’s what we’ve done to practice for the big trip:

  1. IMG_20150523_170751_453We’ve hung out in the car together while it isn’t moving, letting him sniff around and explore all the nooks and crannies. He decided his favorite place was the drivers seat – look out, if you see a wildly driven car in Texas this summer, it might be M at the wheel (just kidding).
  2. We practiced short drives with him in the carrier, and then longer drives with him allowed to roam free. He actually seems to prefer to be in his carrier most of the time.
  3. I have a dog crate that fits his litter box, and it has been set up the same way it will be in the car, in my apartment. We’ve practiced using the litter box in the car both while driving and while stationary. He’s a champ
  4. We’ve even driven randomly and ended up in places he’s unfamiliar with.

In addition to practicing driving, I’ve been collecting all of his favorite things – his favorite toys, blankets, food, etc. to have with us, so he doesn’t feel quite so lost. I think M will have more luggage then me when we make this drive! But it seems to be working, and I think we’ll have a successful drive. Positive thoughts are most welcome, though!

I’ve known how to break this down and figure out what he needs because I know what makes me comfortable and uncomfortable. I know that for me, going new places is terrifying, but I know how to break it into small, manageable steps. I know it helps me, and I thought it might help M cope with the drive. So far, it really seems to be working, since he’s gotten much more comfortable in the car and really actually seems to enjoy it now. If it didn’t, I’d try another tactic.

And they say us autistics don’t have any theory of mind…


Responses

  1. Eeeeh… I think your theory of mind is quite present and working quite well.

    I like how methodically you’re approaching this. I think M is in good hands. I’m potentially facing a move of my own, along with my four cats and two birds. This is food for thought! Unfortunately I don’t have a way to avoid using airplanes. Cats don’t like to swim.

  2. My husband and I are moving cross-country soon via car as well, and doing much the same thing with our cat to get her prepared for the trip. She’s much happier wandering about the car freely (mostly – we’re also harness-training her) than she ever was locked in a crate. For the most part, she seems to alternate between staring intently out the window and snuggling with my feet when she gets overloaded or needs to rest. I definitely can understand that. It’s yet another reason why I connect with my kitty so much more than most humans.

  3. You’re doing a great job!

    My husband and I once moved two cats cross country. They were both already great in a car and on a harness. Our one unpleasant surprise was at a windy rest stop in Texas. High winds equals LOUDLY flapping flags which both cats thought were monsters coming after them. All was well in the end, but it was an overly exciting few minutes for the four of us!

    Good Luck!

  4. I love cats, I also love movies. Do you like movies? If so check out my blog

  5. I’ve been reading some of your posts and I’m curious about the type of research u do. Im an undergraduate studying biology, I too want to do research as a career. I’m just generally intrested in the work that budding scientists do.
    I just wanted to add that I think it’s so amazing that you’ve managed to be so successful despite having difficulties that the average person doesn’t have to expierience. I truly find it inspiring.

    • Hey there, I don’t talk about my research, because I blog anonymously and need to keep it that way. But I am in science🙂 Best of luck to you!

  6. M is in very good hands.
    It’s good to see a happy cat.

    I’ll never believe in that “lack of theory of mind” crap.

  7. It is a blessing that you can handle being out on your own and adjust to all the social and sensory changes. I also prefer cats as they don’t bark. God bless.

  8. That is one lucky cat – someone cares enough to make the transitions comfortable for him (him, right?).

    You will reap the rewards, as well – it won’t be as hard for you to go a long distance in a car with a cat (I hope, anyway). My daughter went with a friend from NJ to Vermont in a car with a cat that never stopped howling. 7 hours. Poor cat! Poor daughter.

    NIce to ‘meet you’ online, and congratulations for being freshly pressed (which is how I came across your blog).

    I can’t tell you everything about me because I don’t blog anonymously, but I have read a bunch of your posts and understand. Thank you for sharing what it is like.

    Alicia

    • Thanks🙂 It did work🙂 Welcome to the blog, I hope you stick around!

      • I added your blog to my list – I visit occasionally and catch up.

        Alicia

  9. I think this is a delightful post.

    I’ve relocated a number of pets, always trusting that professionals would know better how to care for them on the journey than I would. I think that what you and M are doing together is wonderful!

  10. Lucky cat! I’m looking forward to reading this with some autistic teen/tween girls I work with. They’re going to LOVE this.

    • Aww, thanks. We made it, so I think it must have worked…

      • Hey ur good writer

  11. Just be careful in case you have a gap above the footwell in the front of the car which leads to the front of the car and engine area. I had a loose cat travelling thankfully on a lead and harness so I could drag her out,climb up the gap and into the area behind the engine. It was very scary and I always travelled her in a carrier from them on.

    • Indeed – he wasn’t allowed in the front (though I don’t think we even had a gap), and he had no interest in it – just wanted to hang out in “his” spot in back

  12. Aw so cute nice story if ur life I love the cat I got one just like it. My cat is named BAILY yes capitalized letters he’s a boy and loves to poop on his spatula to clean his kitty box. He looks identical to M PS. What do m stand for


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