Having A Cat Improves Your Life, Health, and Well Being

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Having A Cat Improves Your Life, Health, and Well Being
Photo by Benita on Pixabay

Everyone is in love with cats today. Afterall, what’s not to love? For thousands of years, people have enjoyed the company and companionship of cats. But did you know that having a cat or two can benefit your life, health, and longevity? Cats not only improve our health, but also increase our happiness and well-being, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce feelings of loneliness. Multiple scientific studies show how cats boost our physical, emotional and mental health, enrich our lives, and help us live happier and longer lives.

Here are the many ways having a cat can help you:

1. Lower anxiety and stress

People who spend time with cats or kittens report feeling less stressed and calmer. Research conducted in the United Kingdom by the Mental Health Foundation and Cat Protection, found that 87 percent of people who owned a cat felt they had a positive impact on their well-being, and 76 percent said they could cope with everyday life much better thanks to the company of their cat. Over 50 percent of the cat owners felt that their cat’s presence and companionship was the most helpful, followed by 33 percent that described stroking and petting a cat was calming to them. Playing with or petting your cat can release all the good chemicals in your brain and relax your central nervous system. 

It is also thought that cats are more beneficial than dogs in reducing stress because they are lap animals and seek to be petted. It is the petting that can bring down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and lower stress and anxiety levels, while also bringing about positive feelings of reassurance and comfort. Sitting with a purring cat at the end of a long, hard day, can decrease levels of cortisol, boost your mood, soothe you, and bring about peace of mind. A cat’s purr is highly therapeutic for humans. 

2. Improve your cardiovascular health

Statistics show that cat owners show a lower risk of having heart disease or experiencing a heart attack or stroke. One study published in Medical News Today found that people who live with cats have a lower risk of experiencing a heart attack. A 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, found that a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by over 30 percent over non-cat owners. This is especially true when you consider that cats reduce our psychological stress and anxiety that can cause cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. And having a cat to reduce your risk of heart disease is far less invasive than surgery and taking drugs. Cats are known to improve their owners’ overall physical health as well.

3. Reduce feelings of loneliness

Having a pet can really help with feelings of loss and of losing a loved one. They can also provide needed support with feelings of loneliness. Cats have been shown to help people get over loss more quickly and serve as a social support during difficult times. They are affectionate and can fulfill our need for companionship. An Austrian study revealed that having a cat in the house is the emotional equivalent of having a romantic partner. Bam!

4. Provide a soothing and calming effect and help lower your heart rate and blood pressure

Simply petting and cuddling with a cat can lower our heart rate, lower blood pressure, and calm and soothe us. The University of Minnesota has put this to the test and found that even the gravest of health concerns could be treated with a little TLC from your cat. Here’s what they found:

  • Cat owners had a 30 or 40 percent lower risk from dying of cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack risk was reduced when a cat was found in the home
  • People can reduce their risk by a third just by owning a cat
  • Cat owners experience lower blood pressure and are more likely to have lower blood pressure levels than those who do not own any pet

The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that owning a cat can help you live longer by lowering your triglycerides, a factor which determines stroke risk. Even your blood stream (and the inside of your arteries) benefit from spending time with a cat. If that’s not enough, a 2006 Canadian study reveals lowering cholesterol could be better treated by bringing home a cat—over taking pills and medication. 

5. Make us happier, keeps negative emotions away, and help you recover from mental illness

Even watching cute YouTube cat videos has a positive immediate emotional pay-off. Cats offer wonderful companionship, they can heal us with their purrs, and are often therapy animals because they are ideal companions for mental health. Research studies reveal that pets, including cats, are very helpful to people with mental health conditions like PTSD and depression. Cats help owners manage their emotions and distract them from mental illness symptoms. Pets make their owners feel needed, they require daily caretaking, and give them a sense of purpose every day.

Another study conducted by Animal Cognition in 2015, found that domestic cats are better able to understand when owners feel depressed, sad or unhappy. Cats can read their humans’ facial expressions and pick up emotional signals, which allows them to respond in supportive ways.

6. Improve your sleep 

Many studies prove this. But one study in particular at the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine reports that 41 percent of people in a study indicated that they slept better because of their pet, versus only 20 percent who said their sleep was disturbed by their pet. Several studies in the UK found that people, especially women, prefer sleeping with their cats, and report sleeping better with a cat than with a human partner. 

7. Help children with their emotional and social needs, and decrease their chances of allergies, asthma and obesity 

In 2002, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study that reported children under one year old who were exposed to a cat were less likely to develop allergies, and not just pet allergies. A child’s exposure early in life to cats protects against many types of common allergies – such as dust mites, ragweed, and grass. 

Research shows that when children grow up around pets in the house, that early-life exposure to our furry friends can reduce the risk of developing allergies as well as obesity. Children born to parents that have animals (before birth, after birth and the first year) experience significant increases in two beneficial gut bacteria: Oscillospira and Ruminococcus. Prior research studies have linked Oscillospira with a decreased risk of obesity, and Ruminococcus with a reduced risk of childhood allergies. The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study (CHILD) research found that children exposed to pets before and after birth had a two-fold increase in this specific gut bacteria, protecting them from obesity and allergies. The same research also found that these children had greater defenses against pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis in newborns. 

Plus, early exposure to cats is also associated with a lower risk of asthma in children, reported in a research study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2017. Researchers believe this to be the case because children who interact with cats are exposed and absorb a type of Sialic Acid that regulates inflammation and that the body does not normally produce. The University of Virginia’s Asthma and Allergic Disease Center found children who were exposed to cats not only avoided developing asthma, but they also helped lessen their chances of getting allergies later in life.

8. Influence and improve behaviors and personalities in children with social disorders

Studies suggest that cats significantly help children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder or other disorders that affect a child’s ability to “read” other people’s emotions and respond to them. Cats help these children by providing emotional support, a calming effect, bonding, attention, and help with empathy.

9. Help improve your relationship skills

Having a cat can help pet parents with their human-to-human relationships. Pet owners will often form new friendships and bonds with other pet owners because they have their pets in common. People who have pets can find it less stressful to socialize with other people and find it easier to create new friendships. Plus, having a cat helps pet parents become more patient, caring, and loving towards others. The unconditional love we receive from our cat helps us in turn extend that love to others. 

10. A cat can literally save your life!

Cats are hyper instinctive, have keen senses, can be very nurturing, and have a heightened sense of smell, which serves them to know when something is about to happen or is happening. Cats have been known to save countless people’s lives—from gas leaks, from house fires, from epileptic and diabetic seizures, they have found cancers in their humans, and have been known to intervene in saving their pet parents life from aggressive animals and people, and even from suicide. One cat Masha in Russia, kept an abandoned baby safe by lying on top of her inside a box to keep her warm, meowing to get people’s attention on the street. And Homer, a blind cat, viciously attacked a home intruder who was burglarizing the owner’s house, making him flee the scene. He was later written about in the book, Homer’s Odyssey. There is even a story about Tommy, the cat who reportedly called 9-1-1 to help his owner who was on the ground unable to get up. The owner had taught Tommy to call 9-1-1, and Tommy performed when it was most needed, saving his guardian’s life. 

Let’s face it—life is better owning a cat. For so many reasons. They help us in countless ways–emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually. And you can help them too, by giving a homeless, abandoned or shelter cat, a much-needed home. A win-win for all!

Here’s to a long, happy life for both you and your cat!

Having A Cat Improves Your Life, Health, and Well Being
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