Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Wisdom Of Temple Grandin

Last night NPR re-aired its three interviews with Temple Grandin, from 1995-2009, in conjunction with their review of the new film about her. For those who don't know, Dr. Grandin is a PhD animal behaviorist at Colorado State University whose personal experience as as a high-functioning autistic gives her tremendous insight into exactly what frightens animals, and how to mitigate it when we work with them.

I found her comments on how one should physically touch animals to reassure them to be extremely applicable to handling cats in the hospital. You will notice that I discourage staring at cats or making loud or high-pitched sounds in the exam room, and encourage slow, gentle stroking rather than rapid rubbing, patting, or jiggling. This simple approach makes the exam room experience much easier on the cat, and far less likely to result in anyone (meaning any humans) getting hurt. If not for an interview with Dr. Grandin that I heard several years ago, I wouldn't understand why it is that certain approaches to cats simply don't work.

Cats really are like small furry autistic people. Humans would do well to remember this in their dealings with felines - a lot fewer misunderstandings would arise.