Can Cats Have ADHD? 16 Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Cats, especially kittens, can be hyperactive at times. It’s normal for most cat owners to notice their feline friends running around the house as fast as they can.
But, what if a cat frequently exhibits these sudden bursts of energy? Should you be concerned? Does that indicate a more serious health condition, such as ADHD? But, can cats have ADHD?
Can Cats Have ADHD?
Although the disorder isn't universally acknowledged, more and more veterinarians and animal experts tend to think that cats can develop ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
While this is a well-known condition in humans, especially in human children, it’s not the same thing with cats. In felines, ADHD does not have a name, so, it is often undiagnosed even if the cats exhibit classic ADHD symptoms that are seen in humans.
Diagnosing ADHD in humans can already be challenging. So, it’s not surprising that it is even more difficult to give an ADHD diagnosis in animals, especially in unpredictable creatures like cats. And besides, the presenting symptoms of ADHD can be commonly observed in felines. Hence, it can be easy to assume that a cat has this condition, even if they are simply acting as usual.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by rapid mood swings, short attention spans, impulsive behavior, and long periods of sleep. You can only determine if your hyper cat has ADHD once he is examined and diagnosed by a veterinarian who specializes in, or at least has some expertise with, the feline form of the disorder.
Again, diagnosing ADHD in cats is not only difficult because the main symptoms are somewhat common in felines considering the fact that they are hunters, they are territorial, and they live in a small space. For instance, the hyperactivity symptom can be the result of a cat being confined in a small space, and its predatory instincts are not being satisfied.
Moreover, another challenge in diagnosing such a condition, aside from the fact that the symptoms can easily be regarded as part of a cat’s normal behavior, is that a cat has to be closely monitored for a couple of weeks or even months.
You can suspect that something is wrong if you see signs of excessive grooming, aggressiveness, trouble sleeping, persistent purring, or hyperactivity in your cat during that time.
The Causes of ADHD in Cats
In humans, genetic influences and factors are often associated with ADHD diagnosis. So, it is also possible that kittens inherit this disorder from their parents. Moreover, the exact cause of ADHD in humans has not yet been determined, but environmental factors and childhood developmental issues may also play a part in the diagnosis. And again, it can also be the same case in cats.
Common Symptoms of ADHD in Cats
At present, there are not enough studies about ADHD in cats. This attention deficit disorder can also manifest differently in cats than it does in people, and it can vary greatly from one cat to another.
It is because of this that the illness is challenging to identify. This is another reason why some specialists disagree that it ought to be acknowledged as a feline condition.
In some ways, diagnosing ADHD in older cats may be easier. During their energetic phases, cats with ADHD frequently move across the house more quickly than normal kittens.
By nature, adult cats tend to be a little more laid back and would much rather sleep than put themselves through excessive stress. Hence, if your older feline friend is unusually active, it's safe to think that your cat has ADHD.
However, other than being hyperactive and playful animals, cats of all ages can display the following clinical manifestations if they have ADHD:
We, cat lovers, are aware of kittens' high levels of energy. That is hardly surprising considering that a kitten spends their first year of life doing nothing but playing, sleeping, and eating.
However, if your cat is older than two years old and he still exhibits kitten-like behavior and excessive energy, that could be an indication of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
2. Unpredictable Mood Swings
Certain symptoms of ADHD are more commonly observed in cats, and “rapid mood swings” is definitely one of these. As the term suggests, cats with ADHD will exhibit a sudden change in their mood without warning whatsoever.
One moment you could be comfortably petting your cat, snuggling with him, and then he would suddenly leap in the air, begin interacting with the most unexpected objects in her surroundings, or engage in combat play with you.
Mood swings can also be observed in cats without ADHD. However, these unpredictable mood swings happen more often in cats with ADHD.
3. Short Attention Span
If your cat has attention deficit disorder, he will most likely be unable to focus on one item for an extended period of time. And aside from this, your cat may also pay massive attention to a particular object while you are playing, which can be a way for him to compensate for his inability to give long attention to certain objects.
This is worth noting because cats without ADHD can concentrate pretty well on things, while those with ADHD cannot. It is difficult for them to concentrate on certain objects, so, they need to try harder to focus on one thing.
4. Adult Cat With Kitten-Like Energy Levels
All kittens are small balls of great energy, but as they get older and grow, we see that this energy gradually wanes. Most senior cats typically become quite slothful and prefer to lounge in the sun than run around the house.
If your cat is more than one or two years of age and he is still acting like a kitten and has the same amount of energy as a 3-month old kitty, then, chances are he may have ADHD.
5. Lack of Self Awareness
Cats are known for being intelligent creatures, which also means that they are self-aware. And while they are also popularly known for being independent and for not listening to what their owners say, most cats would still know when to back down.
However, for cats with ADHD, this type of self-awareness is not present. So, you may notice that your cat with ADHD will not change his mind no matter what you do to lure him towards doing something. Your cat will do whatever it is that he wants to do.
Hence, this can result in your cat stealing food on your table, relentlessly begging for treats even if you’ve just given him some, and other negative behaviors.
6. Cat Chooses When to Snuggle
Cats with ADHD are the ones who choose when they will be affectionate to their owners. They struggle to focus and unwind, so if you try to compel them, they will probably resist you and flee. However, if you are unwinding on the couch, they will undoubtedly come over and cuddle with you.
7. Extreme Curiosity
Given that most cats exhibit curiosity, this characteristic can be a little trickier to spot than others. Cats are renowned for being inquisitive animals. However, if you observe your cat be insatiably interested, this could be a sign of ADHD.
The majority of cats will become intrigued about something, and if it hurts them or it smells unpleasant, they will typically cease being curious about it. However, if you notice your cat is still interested in these things and isn't learning their lesson, this could be their ADHD taking over.
8. Addictive Personality
In humans, those with ADHD tend to have a more addictive personality, and the same can be true with cats. For instance, cats can be obsessed with their treats.
So, you should pay attention to the food or treats you are giving your cat. If you switch flavors or change to a new brand, does your cat notice?
Does she eat the food or treats with the same enthusiasm, or does she simply walk away? Does your cat seem to be excited about a particular flavor or food?
Your answers to these questions can help identify whether your cat has developed an addiction to certain flavors, brands, types of food, and so on.
As long as the addiction is to something beneficial for your cat, this is often not dangerous. Of course, make sure you still feed your cat sparingly, especially with treats. Giving in to his addiction could result in you putting on more weight for your cat than you want.
9. Food Eating Disorders
Cats love routines. So, if you are a first-time cat owner, you should know that your feline friend is not fond of having changes in his daily activities. They do best when they stay in the same place and struggle when pushed to adapt to changes.
Hence, it is common for pets to have a regular feeding schedule. A cat without ADHD will probably only alter his feeding schedule when he is ill and will typically eat at specific intervals throughout the day.
On the other hand, cats with ADHD will always eat at different times, and they will never have a feeding schedule.
10. Sleep Pattern Disturbances
For both people and animals, sudden bursts of energy can be draining. Hence, a cat with ADHD will frequently alter its sleeping patterns.
Cats are among the creatures that sleep the most—up to 16 hours a day—but they seldom ever do so when they have other things to do.
As mentioned above about the feeding routine, most cats won't sleep in the morning since they are aware that you will feed them when you wake up.
By contrast, cats with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder will fall asleep at the most unexpected times. After a particularly active day, they will also sleep for a very long time since they need to recoup.
11. Your Cat Sleeps All Day
Aside from being curious and intelligent creatures, cats are also known to be sleepy animals. Hence, it can be challenging to identify this behavior as an indicator of ADHD. However, it can be done.
Keep an eye on your cat's sleeping habits to see whether you should be concerned. Your cat may have ADHD if you notice that he is hyperactive at night but eats, sleeps, and repeats the cycle during the day.
Cats with ADHD need to relax after using up all of their excess energy during the night, but in order to rest, they must first exhaust themselves.
12. Your Feline Friend Loves The Outdoors
A cat with ADHD can find a lot of stimulation in the outdoors. Watching different bugs, small rodents, and birds run around awakens their primitive instincts.
Giving your cat some time in the fresh air could be a terrific approach to help him get tired so that you both get a good night's sleep. The kind of stimulation cats with ADHD is constantly seeking would be a few hours spent chasing things around the yard.
If you are not fond of taking your cat outside, or you feel that it is not safe for your feline friend, you can still give him access to the outside world by simply providing him space by a big window where he can sit, enjoy the sun, and the view.
13. Your Cat Disappears For a Long Time
If you have an indoor-outdoor cat with ADHD, you can expect that he may disappear for a long time. Male cats who go outside to find females are known to exhibit this behavior. However, the duration of the cat's absence can go longer than two weeks.
Pay attention, though; if your cat has been spayed or neutered but continues to wander out and stay outside for a lengthy period of time, you should address this since this behavior can be a sign of ADHD in addition to the other symptoms already listed.
14. Your Cat Appears to Be Ignoring You
Is your cat acting extra stubborn lately? Perhaps you feel as though he never pays attention to you? Unlike dogs, most cats do not learn tricks that call for specific responses, but they nonetheless react to their humans in similar ways.
If you feel like your cat is never listening to what you are asking him to do, he might be suffering from ADHD. And the reason why he appears not to be paying attention to your words is that he may be overstimulated and is paying too much attention to a lot of things. Hence, he may unintentionally ignore or fail to focus on your words.
15. Ability to Hyperfocus
People with ADHD frequently have the capacity to focus intensely. This disorder may be present in your cat if you notice him becoming obsessed with something or engaging in an activity for an extended period of time while appearing to block out the environment around him.
If your cat has ADHD, focusing on something will need a lot more effort on its part. For instance, during playtime, you may notice that your cat is having a hard time focusing on the toy you are playing with. Your cat may also do this with his food, or with other things.
Impulsivity is a characteristic frequently observed in people with ADHD. In cats, this also explains why mood swings can occur suddenly or why your feline friend is so particular about when to cuddle.
Cats with ADHD can quickly be engaged in one activity to another. You may observe your cat playing with a feather toy with you and he is fully focused on you, and then, all of a sudden, he is moving toward his food bowl for a snack. Your cat might have ADHD if you see this happening frequently.
How Can You Help a Cat With ADHD?
Increasing activity will help your cat with ADHD become exhausted. This is especially helpful if it is tough for you to get asleep at night since your cat is hyperactive. Hence, plan to play with your cat and make sure he is worn out before going to bed.
Toy mice and feathers are useful for this, but you may also look at some battery-powered toys that move quickly. You can even try hamster wheels specifically designed for cats to help him burn off some energy while he gallops about.
Also, if your cat appears to be addicted to his treats or food, you can create a game for him to find his food. Reducing his cravings and exhausting him will prevent him from consuming too much at once.
Finally, while there are drugs to treat ADHD humans, just like Adderal, you should never give them to your cat because these drugs are toxic or even lethal to cats.
Can Cats Help Humans With ADHD?
Yes, cats and children with ADHD frequently get along well. However, other animals can also positively impact someone with this condition.
However, cats might be the ideal choice because they are better at teaching kids to adhere to a schedule, compared to dogs.
Keeping pets can help people with mental health issues in a variety of ways, including boosting self-esteem, promoting physical exercise, serving as a friend at difficult times, and lowering anxiety levels.
Overactive cats may or may not have ADHD or other mental disorders. So, as always, it’s best to consult your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has reached a certain limit in his behavior that suggests something is wrong.
In most cases, highly energetic cats that are experiencing the other signs and symptoms mentioned above may be diagnosed as having ADHD. However, it’s also possible that other underlying health conditions are causing the changes in your cat’s behavior.
Some older cats may acquire hyperthyroidism, which results in irregular energy rhythms for them. Their thyroid regulates their energy levels, so if they seem to be more active than usual, it is crucial to have this examined by a medical practitioner.
If your cat has been given the all-clear in terms of health, then, be sure to feed him regularly, offer him lots of love and attention, give him plenty of exercises, and provide him with enough space where he can be comfortable being himself.