7 Reasons owning a cat is good for your health

You may have heard that owning a pet is good for your health, which study after study proves to be true. But you may be surprised to find in what ways, specifically, owning a cat improves your health.

1. Heart health

Cat and girl on porch
Image: martinak15/Flickr

“Having a cat in your life is good for the heart for many reasons,” says Sandi Laird, an animal care director of over 20 years at Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter in Texas. “A study conducted by researchers at University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis found that over a 10-year period, cat owners were 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than non-cat owners.”

2. Emotional stability

Cradling sleeping cat
Image: Onesharp/Flickr

Laird continues, “Cat companionship can help those who feel lonely experience another connection with a living being. The responsibility of caring for a cat and the knowledge that your furry friend is waiting for you at home can help those who are single or widowed.” Similarly, Anne Lemke — owner of Ace Pet Care, a pet-sitting company in Texas — points to an article from the Mental Health Foundation. The article cites its collaborative study with Cats Protection and found that 76 percent of the 600 people surveyed believed that pet ownership made coping with life easier.

More: 18 Things cat lovers adore about their cats

3. Lower blood pressure

Cat as patient
Image: Juhan Sonin/Flickr

“Petting a cat has a calming effect that lowers blood pressure,” Laird explains.”Those who own pets, according to a State University of New York at Buffalo study, are more likely to have lower blood pressure than those who do not have pets.”

4. Stress reduction

Cat hug on couch
Image: Sheila Sund/Flickr

“Caring for your cat and having a cat to cuddle with can reduce stress levels,” Laird says. “The purring that a cat does when it is content also has a soothing effect on the owner as well.” She also mentions that, unlike dogs, most cats are very low maintenance. You feed them and clean their litter. Sometimes, when a pet needs lots of care and upkeep, it can actually add stress to the owner’s life. (And that’s another point for the cat team!)

5. Mental health

Cat and woman in sunshine
Image: Torrey Wiley/Flickr

“There has never been a better reason for cat ownership than the bonding and emotional companionship that they bring,” says Lemke. “The evidence is not only in my firsthand encounters with clients, but also in many reports detailing their positive influence on pet mom and dad’s mental health.” She calls attention to a Discovery Channel article, “The Truth About Cats: They’re Good for Us,” which mentions the positive mental health effects of pet ownership — especially on the elderly, on students and on people with chronic illnesses.

6. Stronger bones

Shaved cat
Image: Jared Eberhardt/Flickr

“The purr of a cat is at a meditative rate that can help you to concentrate on the moment at hand. The frequency of the cat’s purr can actually heal (slowly) bone fractures,” says Shawn Simons, founder of the nonprofit feral cat rescue Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats in Los Angeles.

Wait, what? Yep! Believe it or not, Scientific American explains, “Cats purr… with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.” And here’s a super-fun fact that they note: “Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low-energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy.”

More: First aid for pets

7. Live longer

Cat hug
Image: Sunny Ripert/Flickr

“Cats may have nine lives, but because of the many health benefits cats provide to their owners, cat owners live longer than those who do not own cats,” says Laird. All of the health benefits of owning a cat — including lower blood pressure, a healthier heart and less stress — add up to a longer life… of enjoying your cat!

You don’t have to own a cat

Envious of all these health benefits, but don’t own a cat? No need to worry (worrying will just increase your blood pressure anyway). Besides all the volunteering and fostering opportunities you may have in your area, Lemke points out, “Even as recently as three months ago, NBC News published an article, ‘Scientists Explain Why Watching Internet Cat Videos Is Good for You,’ which… suggested that just the act of watching cats online did the following”: 

1. Boost your energy level
2. Heighten your positive emotions
3. Decrease your negative feelings

Kittens wrestling
Image: Giphy

Moral of the story? Cats are just plain awesome. If you don’t have one, head to the nearest shelter and take your pick of the litter. Then, you can have a magical furry fluffball — equipped with health benefits galore — all for your very own.

More: 5 Things people get wrong about cat ladies

This post was brought to you by Tidy Cats.


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