"B", my 50 something brother in law who has autism, blamed the family cat, Pepe Le Pew.
In fact, while my spouse (who is several years older than "B") was growing up, he owned several cats. "B" never showed any interest in those cats, either. His mother and father did not keep other pets, so we'll never know if "B" would have made a dog his own, or a bird, or any other animal.
Is this usual for someone with autism?
The short answer is "there is an entire spectrum of differences between people with autism". But one thing is for certain, in my experience: the myth that a person with autism can not love, is just that - a myth. (Something else to blog about, one day.) They just find it difficult to show it in ways we without autism understand.
The longer answer is: Some people with autism love animals and interact with them more easily than with people.
This could be for a number of reasons. Animals do not judge our social behavior. For a person with autism, the social behavior of other humans is a mystery, many times a painful mystery as he or she is rejected by others for reasons not easily understood. The love of an animal is unconditional.
And, perhaps, the social behavior of a solitary cat or dog is something that a person with autism can pick up on.
The relationship between certain individuals and people with autism can be legendary, such as the famous professor of animal science who has autism, Temple Grandin. Ms. Grandin, in fact, is an advocate for humane animal slaughter for those animals who are raised for food. She even addresses the issue of humane animal slaughter in the context of two major world religions.
She writes extensively on animal welfare.
And, those are not the writing of someone who does not care and can not love.
But, let us return to the situation, after my father in law died, where "B" blamed the family cat, Pepe.
We still don't know why "B" blamed Pepe. I don't think we'll ever know. Perhaps this was his way of communicating something he saw that night. An unusual behavior my spouse remembers from his childhood, watching "B" develop in a way unlike his other brother, was that "B" would blame his hand for misbehavior. "The hand did it", he would insist.
Perhaps "B" saw Pepe trying to enter the bedroom the night my father in law died. (they probably had the door closed that night as we were there.) Perhaps "B" (who loves to read about scientific topics) had read about folk beliefs that cats could smother young babies. Perhaps he thought the cat had smothered his father. I can only speculate.
It's important to note that whatever "B" was trying to communicate, he wasn't violent. In fact, I have never, ever, seen "B" engage in violent behavior towards others.
He never tried to harm the cat. And, I am touched by my readers who worried for the cat's fate.
So, dear readers, let me assure you the cat in question lived to a ripe old age, unharmed (and probably unloved) by "B". Pepe died of natural causes when he was around 16 years old. In his older years, Pepe didn't stay at home much. He took up with another neighborhood cat, and (with the owner's blessings) spent most of his indoor time with the other cat's owner.
I'm happy Pepe found happiness. Sometimes, I wonder if "B" is happy with his present life.
And, one more thing to close this story.
My mother in law never replaced Pepe with another cat. To this day, they remain without a pet.