"I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Cocteau, Writer
This quote rings true to me. I have a cat of my own, and I strongly believe that a family that includes a cat is a family in good company. It would seem that many families agree too: according to the American Pet Products Association, 79 to 96 million cats are owned in the United States. There's no denying that pet ownership in general can improve a person's quality of life, cat ownership in particular. In fact, scientists have studied the human-animal bond and discovered the many health benefits of owning a cat. Let's take a look:
1. They improve your cardiovascular system
Studies conducted at the University of Minnesota found that those who did not own cats were 30 to 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, when compared to cat owners. Unfortunately, dog owners do not reap these same benefits. Other studies show that the chance of death from sudden heart attack is reduced among cat owners too. In fact, a study funded by the NIH (National Institute of Health) determined that pet owners were more likely to survive a heart attack. Furthermore, owning a cat can reduce your stroke risk by up to one third, according to a study conducted at the University of Minnesota.
2. They boost your immune system
Owning a cat has been found to lead to improved social support, reduced depression and more laughter, play and exercise - all of these factors combine to help your immune system function better. Cats can also determine when you're not feeling well and help you get better by comforting you.
3. They reduce allergies and respiratory problems
Children brought up around cats (and dogs too) develop immunity to allergens from an early age. Studies show that the incidence of respiratory problems (including asthma) is reduced in children who are exposed to cats in their early years. On top of reducing allergies, studies found that children raised with pets appear to develop greater empathy for the feelings of others and are able to better relate to other people.
4. They help lower your blood pressure
Petting your cat has been found to be calming and may reduce your blood pressure. Studies conducted at the University of New York found that people who owned pets had lower blood pressure than those who did not. Studies also found that children with hypertension had lower blood pressure while petting their cat or dog.
5. They help lower your cholesterol and triglycerides
It is a well known fact that diet and exercise can go a long way toward reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, studies show that owning a cat can help too. In fact, owning a cat lowers cholesterol better than some medications, according to a 2006 study conducted in Canada. In turn, this may make pet owners less prone to heart attacks than non pet-owners.
6. They can help heal your bones and muscles
All thanks to their purring powers. Cats purr at a frequency between 20 to 140 Hz - and their purring is thought to have therapeutic effects. It has been found that bones heal best at 25 Hz and 50 Hz frequencies. Furthermore, soft tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments, and problems like infections and swelling, heal faster at these frequencies.
7. They reduce stress and anxiety
In today's fast paced lifestyle, interacting with a pet may bring play-time and creativity back into your life. Caring for a cat and cuddling with them can help take your mind off your worries, reducing your levels of anxiety and stress. Spending just a couple of minutes with your pet can reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) and boost serotonin, a happy hormone that not only makes you feel better but reduces pain.
8. They improve your mood and relieve depression
On the one hand, cats may have been given the reputation of being solitary, unsocial creatures. On the other, the love and companionship of a cat can help lift your spirits, if you simply pet them. Animals are surprisingly responsive to emotional states in humans, enabling them to care for you whenever you need it.
9. They reduce the effects of loneliness
Connecting with a cat is a form of social interaction. If you have a small group of friends or family that lives far away from your home, your cat can help relieve your feelings of loneliness, particularly if you come home to an empty house at the end of the day. The social support provided by your pet may in turn encourage you to interact more with other people too.
10. They help reduce medical expenses
Studies show that cat owners make fewer trips to the doctor and/or hospital. Therapy dogs are fairly common in nursing homes and schools that focus on special needs. However, there are therapy cats too. After all, it seems that cats know who's in need of a good purring!