Having a cat in your life is fulfilling in very many ways, but it also makes cat owners healthier and happier. There are certain medical benefits of being around cats that are backed by science. These constitute yet another reason to consider getting a feline pet. Here are the main ones:
Psychological Benefits of Being a Cat Owner
Cats create close bonds with their human companions without being needy or excessively emotional. People perceive this as a meaningful and very rewarding relationship, which makes a cat's presence in one's life extremely important.
Having a Worthy Companion
Some cat breeds only see one person as their master, while others can relate to more than a single master. Nevertheless, this ultimately depends on the cat’s personality and the relationship with its human family. The bottom line is that the connection one can set up with a cat is always a worthy one.
Cats are very intelligent animals and they demand a fair amount of respect through their behavior. Earning a cat's love and trust can be a challenge, but once received, it is something to take pride in. Coming back home to a cat will never leave owners feeling alone.
The type of bond created between cats and their masters has made them some of the best animals used during therapy. People dealing with loss or facing traumatic events are often advised to get a pet cat because they could benefit from this type of companionship.
Cats are very independent animals, but they are certainly social creatures. As such, they develop a complex communication system with their masters. This can be vocal, as the tone and pace of a cat's meowing express its feelings, or it can be based on non-vocal patterns.
They are also extremely expressive animals and their masters can tell what their cats feel based on their facial expression. Another aspect that contributes to the communication process is the physical and behavioral patterns. For instance, owners know that when cats wag their tails, it means that they are angry or that if they scratch on a closed door, it means that they want the door opened.
Being able to communicate with a pet to this level and getting to have actual non-verbal conversations with it is a very fulfilling relationship, that ends up making cat owners healthier through all the benefits that come with having a loved one nearby. While the direct connection between psychological and physical health may not always be obvious, it one of the most important factors leading to a good life.
Freedom and Independence
Cats are very independent pets, which gives their owners a lot of freedom. This enriches the connection between them because the cat will not be perceived as a burden. Moreover, the interaction between the cat and its owner is not restricted to mandatory activities, such as walking a dog.
It is initiated by either the cat or the owner and it is carried out between the two with the consent of both. This is yet another factor that enriches the connection and that, in turn, can improve the psychological health of the owner.
Stress Relief and Social Support
As mentioned above, cats are excellent therapy animals because they can help people reduce their depression and anxiety in a very natural way. Instinctively, we are wired to love cubs and respond quickly to them. Even adults cats look like cubs, which is why people find them loveable from the very start.
The texture of their fur, the shapes in their physiognomy, and their movement patterns are only some of the factors that contribute to the positive general perception that the people have of cats. That connected to their communication skills and the meaningful connections they set up with humans make cats very suitable for therapy use. They can be used in a wide range of situations from long-term therapy to palliative short-term sessions. Here are a few examples:
- Losing a loved one - After losing a significant other, people are extremely sensitive. Replacing that person in their lives appears to be not only impossible but an unforgivable act. As such, the role of the person they've lost cannot be replaced by another person. However, getting a pet is something that could keep them focused on an entirely new relationship that will not threaten the position of the one they've lost, but still be worthy and important enough to make a difference. In time, this will help them go through the grieving process and come out stronger with a friend by their side.
- Dealing with depression/ PTSD - After being faced with a traumatic event, people are extremely vulnerable. Having a pet by their side in those moments has been proven to be extremely useful. Not being alone and caring for an animal which they love will keep them focused and help them look forward to the future.
Cats are particularly good in this role because they set up strong relationships with their masters extremely quickly. The complex communication skills we've mentioned help cats get through to them and show them continuously that they are not alone. This way, they can significantly reduce the feeling of loneliness that is so difficult to shake when going through depression.
- Cat Volunteers in Hospitals and Clinics - Even if it is only for a short amount of time, interacting with a cat is extremely powerful and it can bring up a lot of joy. Since this immediate happiness brought on by cats can do wonders for the mental state of patients, certified volunteer cats have been introduced in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.Therapy cats have done wonders all throughout, but especially in the Pediatrics department. The patients' mental state has improved dramatically and some of them have actually had a smoother recuperation process because of it.
Unfortunately, due to extreme safety precautions instated by the American Institute of Epidemiology, cats are no longer considered to be suitable volunteers for hospitals in spite of the immense progress they have brought on.
Physical Benefits of Being a Cat Owner
The positive effects that owning a cat can have on a person's psyche are undeniable at this point, but there are also physical benefits that come with having a relationship with a cat. While some of them are direct, most of them are consequences of having a sincere connection with a loyal companion. Here are the most important ones:
The Positive Effects of Purring
Cat purrs have a sound frequency of 20-140 Hertz. Being around sounds and vibrations in this range is extremely beneficial to humans in very many ways. On one hand, the sound itself is extremely relaxing for the human brain. It works similarly to relaxation, sleep, or meditation music, which encompasses a range of sounds of a certain frequency meant to generate a certain reaction. If you want to test it out, you can try to notice the effects of purring on yourself.
Hearing the sound of the purring reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, having a cat means that you will hear quite a bit of purring through the years. Essentially, this makes cats long-term anti-depressants just through the sounds they make. Please note that actively listening to a cat's purring and concentrating on that will intensify its effects.
Aside from this, purring has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of dyspnoea, lower blood pressure, heal infections and inflammation, and even reduce the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease by 40%.
As most cat owners have experienced personally, when they have a pain or ailment somewhere, their cats tend to come and sit on that particular are and purr. How cats sense their owners' ailments is one of their best traits, but the local effects of a cat's purrs have been medically proven to be curative.
As proven by recent studies, the effects of the vibrations in purring stimulate cellular recovery. This means that wounds can heal faster if the area is exposed to purring. They have also been shown to promote bone growth, healing of fractures and other bone injuries, as well as pain relief and inflammation. The process is easily explained by physics, but the effects are far more meaningful, especially when linked with a feline companion that you love.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
While it might not be a direct connection that people make, owning a cat can truly make your heart stronger and healthier. The best way to keep your heart healthy is by taking preventative measures. Even though cats can't help you improve your diet, they definitely can help you reduce the stress in your life significantly.
In fact, stress has been ranked as the main cause of cardiovascular disease worldwide, which means that having a way to reduce this will be extremely beneficial. This hypothesis is also backed up by scientists who have looked into the matter. This study carried out by the University of Minnesota over a period of 10 years points out how owning a cat can reduce the risk of a heart attack by as much as one third.
Veterinary experts, however, point out that activities that are particularly linked to cats, such as petting for an extended amount of time, are also responsible for bringing down a person's heart rate and giving out a state of relaxation. Moreover, when petted, cats purr, which also exposes the owner to the beneficial effects of the vibrations we've mentioned above.
Improved Hepatic Health
Heavily linked with the points listed before, cat owners have also been shown to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Not only does this improve cardiovascular health, but it also has a major positive effect on other organs in the body, such as the liver. Lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol greatly improve hepatic health, which in turn keeps the body prepared for dealing with physical and psychological stress.
Improved Sleep Hygiene
The vast majority of cats develop sleeping habits together with their owners. Having your cat curl up next to you or at your feet is not only a cozy moment, but it also plays an important role in setting up good sleep hygiene through setting a habit that the cat also relies on. This study from the Mayo Clinic found that over 40% of people slept better with their pets.
This is yet another moment when purring can be extremely beneficial. While the frequency of 20-150 Hertz is not the one shown to induce sleep, it has been proven to have a powerful relaxing effect. This contributes to the cat owner's sleep hygiene and improves it quite a lot.
Decreased Risk of Developing Allergies
According to a study released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases back in 2002, children aged under 1 year who were exposed to a cat are less likely to develop allergies throughout their lives than those who were not exposed to cats.
The study found that the protective effect built by high pet exposure is not restricted to pet allergies. In fact, it extends to many other common types of allergies, such as grass, ragweed, or dust mites. This study has given way to extended research on the matter and it has also debunked the myth that children should not be exposed to cats.
As you can see, cat owners get a wide range of benefits from interacting with their pets. The connection they build with their animals and the habits they create together have quite a powerful effect on their lives.
Through their behavior particularities, cats can actually improve their owners' lives on a psychological level, but their relationship can actually have significant physical effects on their health. From reducing stress to lowered risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cats can truly make their owners healthier.
How has your kitty made your life better and healthier?