Cats are good for us – for our mental and physical health. Research is increasingly documenting the positive effects cats, dogs, and other companion animals have on their owners, and society in general.
The stories told through numerous books about how rescued cats really rescued their humans are proving true, and online sources are becoming more than just an entertaining tale. As researchers would say, anecdotal evidence is now being backed up by science. Studies increasingly link the benefits of positive mental health with better physical being. As cats have a powerful impact on emotional health, it should be no surprise there’s increasing evidence, they are helpful to our physical well-being as well.
Cats are good for us – for our mental and physical health
The scope of the research, and its impact is astronomical. It looks at heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, reduced incidence of stroke, and the ability to heal broken bones, torn tendons and sore muscles. If we include pet therapy, we also find cats and dogs visiting nursing homes have made people dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s speak for the first time in years. The Winn Feline Foundation is currently funding a study on the positive effects of cats on children with Autism.
Schizophrenia, drug addiction, depression, grief counseling, also join the list, say nothing about decreased isolation and loneliness. With the increasing number of cat cafes, across the nation and world, plus the numbers of libraries, book stores, college campuses and more that are incorporating cats into their hemisphere, cats are taking the role of helping people socialize with others they might not ever have conversed with.
There’s even evidence suggesting the Cat Craze on the Internet has positive emotional and physical health benefits. There’s nothing better to boost our feel-good endorphins than a good belly-laugh.
Over the course of the next few weeks and months, Paws is going to be looking into why cats are good for us. We are going to be sharing our insight into some classic books, like ‘Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World’, to’ A Street Cat named Bob’ to the novel, ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’,to the heartwarming true story, ‘Paw Prints in the Moonlight’, and more While these books may not be the best sellers for 2018, they all have a powerful message – one that says just how good cats are for us. They are ones we should take a few moments and read as they will make us appreciate the wondrous beauty of having a special emotional connection with our cats.
We can’t possibly cover all the research nor all the benefits of cat ownership in one blog posts. Today, we start with a recap, and we will cover them more in-depth over the next year.
Why cats are good for us?
Let’s start by addressing some of the positive effects cats can have on your physical health.
- Lowers blood pressure: Cat owners are known to have lower blood pressure than non-cat owners due to the calming effect of cats. One study was conducted with a room full of cat owners. In the study, the owners would speak aloud, which naturally elevated blood pressure levels, but when the owners were observed speaking with their cats, their blood pressure remained constant.
- Decreases risk of heart disease and heart attacks: A study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis concluded people who do not own cats are 30-40% more likely to die of heart attacks than the people that own cats. A study, by the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, Official journal of Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Center, in particular found a decreased risk of death from heart diseases including stroke among people with cats.
- Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol levels: High triglyceride and cholesterol levels contribute to heart disease and are symptomatic of type 2 diabetes as well as strokes, liver and kidney disease. Naturally, reductions in these levels lead to a decreased risk in these diseases.
- Increases the healing of muscles and bones. A cat purr has been long associated with a therapeutic healing ability on human bones and muscle due to the frequency of the purr vibrations at 20-140 HZ.. With studies such as this one, published by the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, in 1997, finds frequencies in the 18-35 HZ range have a positive effect on joint mobility after injury. This association between the frequencies of cats’ purrs and improved healing of bones and muscles may provide help for some humans, Leslie A. Lyons assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California explains in a post for Scientific American. There’s even an old veterinary saying, ‘If you put a bunch of bones and cats in the same room, the bones will heal”.
- Boosts immunity: Exposure to pet dander and fur in the house results in increased resistance to allergens, decreasing risk for allergies and asthma. In a 2012 article, ‘Why Dogs and Cats Make Babies Healthier at TIME.com, it talks about a report in the journal Pediatrics, stating that researchers found that babies who grow up in homes with a pet — namely a dog or a cat — are less likely to get sick than children who live pet-free. of both dogs and cats revealed that contact with these pets in the first year of life can strengthen a baby’s immune system, particularly against respiratory diseases. Researchers also concluded it may well enhance a better defensive system against childhood illnesses as they get older.
Emotional benefits of many cats and other companion animals are through the roof. Some of the keys to that emotional boost from cats are:
- Unconditional love. They don’t care how you look, what you’re wearing or how much money you have. They love you for you.
- They are not judgmental. They don’t tell you that perhaps it would have been better if you had done things differently. Here, Paws cites a few of the many emotional benefits of cat ownership.
- They give you the responsibility of something you have to take care of, without the stresses of children fighting back at you.
- Cats live in the present – not in the past, nor in the future.
Cats are good for us, and here’s why they are sooo very good for our mental health. Emotional boosts from a cat includes, but may not be limited to:
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Owning a cat can be soothing and trigger calming chemicals in the body, decreasing stress and anxiety. Cats are known for being low-maintenance, and petting a cat for 10 or so minutes is believed to relax owners and distract them from other worries.
- Therapeutic benefits from feel-good hormones: The calming effect of owning a cat triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone known for inducing feelings of love and trust.
- Sociability: Cat ownership provides a natural conversation starter and can enhance the owner’s ability to socialize. One study revealed that women were more attracted to men who owned cats because cat ownership often suggests sensitivity and intelligence. Leading pet researcher, Dr June Nicolls found that women were more likely to be attracted to men with pets.
- Companionship: Owning a cat reduces feelings of loneliness. Though cats are often known for their independence, the bond between a cat and its owner reinforces companionship. A Swiss study conducted in 2003 revealed that owning a cat is similar to having a romantic partner.
Additionally, people grieving the loss of a love one have reportedly said talking to their pet helps work through their feelings, since it is often easier to talk to something that won’t respond and can’t judge than to another human being who will voice their opinions.
Still another study has found that children with autism were more likely to be less anxious and calm while petting a cat. Researchers from the University of Missouri found that the social interaction of children with autism dramatically improved when around pets. In the study, half the families that participated had cats, with parents reporting strong attachments forming between them and their kids.
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Why do you think cats are good for us? For the Paws’ family, there’s nothing like snuggling up with a kitty or two on my lap. Then, there’s the occasion when my Siamese wants to snuggle in my arms under the covers. With my four felines, there’s no time to be lonely, and they sure have lead me to meet a lot of people who share my love for cats. Please weigh in and share your thoughts!