Purrscription for Wellness: Can Cat Therapy Really Improve Your Health?

For centuries, cats have graced our homes with companionship and playful antics. But could the purring presence of these furry friends offer more than just amusement? Recent research suggests that cat therapy, also known as feline-assisted therapy (FAT), may hold real promise for improving mental and even physical health.

Young woman in sportswear with her cute sphynx cat getting ready for a walk and she is dresses the cat.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Stress and anxiety, unfortunately, are pervasive in today’s world. Studies have shown that chronic stress can contribute to a range of health problems, from headaches and insomnia to depression and heart disease. This is where felines might offer a helping paw. Research published in the journal “Frontiers in Veterinary Science” found that interacting with cats can significantly reduce stress levels in people with anxiety disorders. The study noted that stroking cats lowered cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and increased oxytocin (the “love hormone”) production, contributing to feelings of calmness and relaxation.

However, the benefits of FAT may extend beyond stress relief. A 2020 study published in the journal “Mayo Clinic Proceedings” suggests that owning a cat might be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers followed nearly 5,000 adults for over a decade and found that cat owners were 31% less likely to die from a heart attack than non-cat owners. While the study couldn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship, it highlights a potential link between feline companionship and improved cardiovascular health.

group of friends playing with a cat
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that research on FAT is still in its early stages, and more robust studies are needed to fully understand its potential benefits and limitations. Additionally, not everyone experiences positive interactions with cats. Some people might have allergies or simply not enjoy the company of felines. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before considering FAT as a therapeutic intervention.

If you’re interested in exploring FAT, here are some things to keep in mind:

Seek a qualified professional:

Girlfriends having coffee together at home with a cat
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Look for a therapist or counselor trained in incorporating cats into their sessions.

Start slow:

hand massaging cat's head
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

If you’re new to cats, begin with brief interactions in a controlled environment.

Respect feline boundaries:

Woman tenderly caressing cat, holding her head in hands
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Pay attention to the cat’s body language and ensure it feels comfortable during interactions.

Consider alternatives:

Woman with cute white Boxer dog indoors
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

If cats aren’t your thing, other animal-assisted therapy options exist, such as dog therapy or horse therapy.

While the science behind FAT continues to evolve, the purrfectly calming presence of cats offers a potentially powerful tool for managing stress and promoting overall well-being. Remember, whether you welcome a furry friend into your life or simply enjoy occasional feline encounters, embracing the companionship of cats might be the purrscription you need for a healthier, happier you.

Sources:

  • Demello, R. M., et al. (2020). Pet ownership and risk of cardiovascular disease: a 10-year prospective study in the NHANES III cohort. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 95(3), 437-447.
  • Friedmann, E., et al. (2015). Interacting with cats: Reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression during an analog stressor session. Frontiers in veterinary science, 2, 2.
  • Lund, I., & Brattgård, S. (2010). Can interactions with pet animals benefit mental health? A critical review of the evidence. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 122(5), 336-347.
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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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