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Can Cats Have ADHD – 11 Symptoms & What You Should Know!

Can Cats Have ADHD – 11 Symptoms & What You Should Know!

Many cat owners have seen their cats get the Zoomies; defined as the moments you see your cat “zooming” around your house as fast as they can. However, if your cat is experiencing frequent Zoomies, you may be starting to wonder if they indicate a more significant issue at hand such as ADHD. But, can cats have ADHD?

Cats can have ADHD. Short attention spans, rapid mood swings, impulsive behavior, and long stretches of sleep can indicate your cat may have ADHD.

Attention, Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not something that has been diagnosed explicitly in cats. Still, the traits of ADHD can be shown, which leads us to believe that cats can have ADHD. To diagnose ADHD, the patient has to exhibit the symptoms of ADHD consistently over several months, and a study like this just has not been done on cats. However, we can still look at the symptoms and traits of ADHD to see if they are the same characteristics your cat is exhibiting. 

11 Signs Your Cat Has Adhd

ADHD is easy to spot if you know what to look for up front. Below are 11 signs your cat has ADHD

1. Your Cat Is Older But Has The Energy Of A Kitten

All kittens are little balls of high energy, but eventually, we see this energy become diluted as they grow and age. Typically most senior cats become quite lazy and prefer laying in the sun over running around the house. If you have a senior cat that still behaves like a kitten, they may have ADHD. Hyperactivity is not something that goes away with age, so they may still be looking for ways to remain stimulated.

2. Your Cat Chooses When To Snuggle

Usually, cats with ADHD have to be the ones to choose if you are going to have an affectionate moment together.

They have trouble focusing and relaxing, so if you try to force them, they will likely fight you off and run away. However, if you are sitting on the couch relaxing, they will probably come and join you for some cuddles. 

3. Rapid Mood Swings

Mood swings are a common characteristic amongst humans with ADHD, which is why we can identify it as a trait within cats with ADHD. The mood swings come on fast and without warning. One second you will be calmly petting your cat, just listening to them purr, and in an instant, they are attacking your hand and growling at you. If you think your cat may have ADHD, be ready to adapt to how they feel at a moment’s notice.

4. Impulsivity 

This is another trait seen in humans with ADHD, the tendency to be impulsive. This also helps to explain why mood swings may come on quickly or why your cat is so picky about when to snuggle.

You may notice that your cat quickly moves on from activity to activity. Maybe you are playing together with a feather toy, and your cat is entirely focused on you, but in the blink of an eye, they are suddenly moving toward their food bowl for a snack. If you notice this frequently happening with your cat, they may have ADHD.

5. Addictive Personality

Those with ADHD tend to have a more addictive personality, and cats can be this way too. Please pay attention to the treats your cat eats or their food. If you switch up the flavors or brands, do they eat it the same?

Do they walk away from it? Do they seem more excited to eat certain flavors? They may be developing, or have already developed, an addiction to a certain flavor or brand.

For the most part, this is not harmful as long as the thing they are addicted to is healthy for them. Of course, make sure to still give them food in moderation. Giving in to their addiction could mean plumping them up more than you intend to. 

6. Sleeping All Day

This is one of the trickier traits to identify. As a species, cats are pretty well known for being lazy and sleeping often. Take note of your cat’s sleeping habits and routine to identify if it is a sign of ADHD correctly.

If you find that they are hyperactive at night and possibly keep you up from all of their activity, then they may have ADHD. After running around all night, they need the daytime to catch up on sleep. It is more difficult for them to rest because they genuinely need to exhaust themselves before relaxing enough to get some sleep.

7. Your Cat Loves The Outdoors

The outdoors is a great place with a lot of stimuli for a cat with ADHD. Their primal instincts get activated as they watch various bugs, small rodents, and birds run around.

Giving them some time outside could be a great way to help tire them out so you can both sleep soundly through the night. A couple of hours of running around the yard chasing things is the kind of stimulus they are always looking for.

Even if you do not like taking your cat outside, giving them space by a large window is still a great source of entertainment for them. Some cats may even prefer that.

My cat hates the outdoors and will run inside if I even open the door, but she loves to lay by my large windows and chitter at all the birds she sees. Play with your space to make sure it’s a good fit for your cat.

8. You See Your Cat Hyperfocusing

If your cat has ADHD, it takes a lot of extra effort for them to focus on something. You may notice this when you play with them if it seems like they are working hard to focus on the toy you are playing with.

Or maybe they do this with their food when they are eating as well. Because their brains need a lot of extra stimuli, trying to focus on one thing means trying to block out all of the stuff they are usually paying attention to.

9. Lacks Self Awareness

Cats, in general, are highly intelligent, which means they are rather self-aware. We all joke about how cats act like royalty in their households, but most cats still know when to back down.

Cats with ADHD do not have this type of self-awareness. You may find your cat relentlessly begging you for food or a treat. Even once you give this to them, they may still be begging for it, which speaks to their addictive personalities as well. 

10. Not Listening 

Does your cat seem to be acting especially defiant? Maybe it feels like they are never listening to you? While most cats do not learn tricks that require responses as dogs do, they still respond to their owners in their ways.

My cat may not play fetch with me, but when I tell her dinner is ready and tap her bowl, she jumps up onto her table to start eating. If she does not jump up when I tap the bowl, then I know she is not listening to me.

Your cat may have ADHD if it feels like they are never listening to you. They may be too overstimulated and trying to focus on too many things at once to hear you exactly.

11. Curiosity

This trait can be a little more challenging to identify than others because curiosity is seen in most cats. Cats are known for being curious creatures. If you see your cat being relentlessly curious, then maybe it is a sign of ADHD showing through.

Most cats will become curious about something, and if it hurts them or smells bad, they learn their lesson and stop giving that thing their attention. But, if you find your cat not learning their lesson and still going back to be curious about something, this may be their ADHD taking over.

Can A Cat Be Special Needs

A cat can be special needs. These special needs vary from cat to cat and can mean a wide variety of things. As they become older, some cats are deemed to be special needs cats because of the additional care required to take care of them.

Perhaps they have a terminal illness, so the care they need is to keep them comfortable until it is their time.

Or they could have developed an illness that is not terminal but still requires maintenance. For example, cats with kidney disease are often administered intravenous fluid to help maintain their hydration.

Cats can also be born with deformities that categorize them as special needs. Some cats are only born with three legs or one eye, so they need a specialized kind of care to function. Deformities can also happen throughout their lifetime through injury or illness. 

ADHD can also be a reason a cat is determined to be special needs, along with other mental conditions.

Cats can display traits of autism that require specialized care, or they could have a condition like Cerebral Hypoplasia which causes them to need help when they walk and move. A wide variety of syndromes cats can be born with or develop that categorize them as special needs.

At What Age Do Cats Calm Down

Every cat is different! There is not a defined age at which cats calm down. Some cats maintain the hyper behaviors of their youth through adulthood. Especially if they have ADHD or other health concerns that affect their energy, they may never calm down.

Cats will typically form attachments to people, other pets, and items, and these will be the things that help them to calm down. Your cat may have a favorite blanket that it lays on to sleep, and if you get rid of this blanket, you may suddenly find yourself with a hyperactive cat at night.

This hyperactivity will most likely be because you removed a source of comfort for them, and now they do not know where to rest. Cats will calm down the more comfortable they are with you and their space, making sure you have created a warm environment for them to relax in.

How To Help A Cat With Adhd

To help your cat with ADHD, increase their activity to help tire them out. Especially if they are hyperactive at night and it is difficult for you to sleep. Schedule some time before bedtime to play with them and make sure they are exhausted.

Mice and feather toys help with this, but you can also look at some battery-operated toys that can move as fast as they can. There are even some hamster wheels made for cats to get all of their running out to burn some energy.

Also, if you have a cat that may be addicted to their food or treats, create a game for them to find the food. This will help curb the addiction, so they are not getting too much at once while also tiring them out. 

How Do You Calm Down A Hyper Cat

To calm down a hyper cat, give them some structured playtime and be consistent with it. If playing with them before bedtime is not enough to tire them out, then schedule more times to play with them throughout the day. The more consistent you are with this, the more they will learn your schedule too.

You also want to create a harmonious household for them where they can feel comfortable. It is crucial that once they are done playing, they have a space they can go relax in.

Also, create safe outdoor experiences for them. Either a playpen outside or a harness are great options for getting your cat the outdoor stimulus they need without letting them entirely run wild.

Most importantly, you want to allow them to be hyper. It is not their fault that they are hyper, and if they have ADHD, there is only so much you can do to curb their hyperactivity. Allow them their hyper moments and do what you can to help them.

Things To Consider

Check in with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your cat’s high energy levels. In most cases, they will be highly energetic, maybe they will be determined to have ADHD, but some underlying health concerns could be contributing to their behavior.

In some seniors cats, they can develop hyperthyroidism that causes erratic energy patterns for them. Their thyroid controls their energy levels, so this is something essential to have checked out by a professional if their energy seems to be more active than usual.

If your cat has a clean bill of health, then make sure to keep them well-fed, give them lots of attention and exercise, and allow them the space to be comfortable with being themselves.