Stay Fit
With Your Feline

Forget about prescription drugs! Owning a cat is just what the doctor ordered. According to researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Institute in Minneapolis, cats, by nature, alleviate stress and anxiety, and potentially reduce the risk of heart attack in humans by 30 percent. Who knew that independent furball could be so good for you!

Woman & Cat

Cats reduce stress

Dr. Adnan Qureshi, lead researcher in a 10-year study involving more than 4,300 Americans was quoted in U.S. News World and Report to have said, "For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks."

According to Dr. Qureshi, if a pet can ameliorate these inciting factors then "clearly having a pet is beneficial." He added, "In the past, studies have considered dogs but never cats."

"I absolutely believe it," agrees Dr. Carol Gamez, who practices veterinary medicine at the Georgetown Veterinary Hospital in Redding, Connecticut. "Cats are incredibly entertaining. They respond to touch and voice, and can keep you laughing and smiling all day just by watching and interacting with them," she adds.

The human feline bond has been nurtured for centuries

It was Mark Twain that said, "I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course."

But the indelible bond between human and feline is one that has intact for more than 10,000 years. Egyptians began to deify cats as early as 3000 B.C, and the oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets dates back to 8,000 B.C. Cats have long been adored and admired for their companionship, love, and loyalty. And now add to their already impressive resume, "holistic healers."

Cats are appealing pets

There are many reasons why cats make great pets. According to Dr. Kimberley Khodakhah, a veterinarian at the Pound Ridge Veterinary Center, cats are "easy, independent, and very personable."

Khodakhah also points out that cats may be more appealing as pets than dogs, especially to populations susceptible to heart attack, because they are much more self-sufficient. Compared to their upkeep, the unconditional love and affection cats give in return is immeasurable.

Cats offer unconditional love

Meghan Scam, an 18-year-old student and veterinary technician at the Monroe Animal Hospital in Connecticut, knows this first hand.

Scam has owned Callie, a bubbly female calico, since the age of two, and admits to treating her furry friend more like a "child" or a "second sister" than a household pet. Callie is not only a great companion, the 16-year-old feline has always been there to support Meg in times of need.

"It's as if [Callie] has a sixth sense," says Scam. "She can always detect when something is up or if someone is upset. She will usually meow quietly or come up and cuddle with you."

Two years ago, Scam was in a car accident that left her traumatized and afraid to get back behind the wheel. She recalls how Callie helped nurse her back to life right after the incident with soothing purrs and warm licks.

The powerful purr

A cat's purr (the soft, rhythmic vibration usually produced when a cat is happy or content) may pack more power than its subtle sound lets on.

Though much of why and how a cat purrs still remains a mystery, recent studies suggest that purring acts as a "natural healing mechanism" by promoting bone and muscle regeneration in cats.

According to MSN News, "Exposure to vibrations between ranges of 20 to 140 Hertz (number of cycles per second) is helpful for bone growth, fracture healing, pain relief, swelling reduction, wound healing, muscle growth, mobility of joints and repair of tendons and ligaments."

As it turns out, a cat's purr ranges between 25 and 140 Hertz, which matches the frequency that has been shown in humans to produce the most therapeutic benefits.

While the link between purring and healing is apparent, Dr. Khodakhah believes that this is only a piece of the puzzle. Cats usually don't purr for more than 15 minutes at a time, so it may not specifically stimulate changes in blood pressure or improve wound healing.

However, cats typically "purr when it's a calm and relaxed time, so humans may subliminally associate relaxation with the purring sound, and when you hear it again maybe your body instinctively knows to wind down," explains Khodakah.

Cats are good mind-body therapy

The healing power of pets is not an uncommon story. Both Dr. Gamez and Dr. Khodakhah say that they witness this phenomenon almost every day at their separate practices.

"Many clients of mine are going through chemo, have lost a child, or are dealing with serious financial issues," say Gamez. "A pet is like a family member and it helps people through rough times."
For thousands of years cats have warmed our hearts and souls with their clever antics and soft-spoken presence. Unless you have actually owned a cat, it is difficult to understand the feeling and sensation that these four-legged friends inspire.

In concurrence with Ernest Hemingway's quote, "One cat just leads to another," Dr. Gamez says, "Cats are like potato chips; people can't just have one." If the benefits of owning a cat really are lifesaving, reach for the value pack!

For more pet-centric ways to improve your health, check out these articles:

The health benefits of pet therapy

Get fit with your dog


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