There are so many ways that cats can have a positive impact on your life. They make you happy, provide companionship and there are a whole bunch of health benefits associated with owning one. We’ve summarized 15 of the amazing health benefits of owning a cat in this neat infographic.
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1Cats Improve Your Short-Term Memory
It’s true: cats can help improve your short term memory. If you’re like me you find the antics of your cat absolutely hilarious. I’ll laugh at something he does several times a day. It’s this laughter that provides the very real benefit to your memory. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can lead to damage in the hippocampus which can impair memory and learning. Laughing for 10 minutes per day suppresses cortisol and leads to less damage. Doctors will soon be prescribing 10 minutes of cat videos!
2Cats Reduce Your Chances of Suffering a Stroke
There are too many benefits of pet ownership to ever fully quantify, but according to a study by Ogechi, I., Snook, K., Davis, B.M. et al women who own cats have a 40% reduced risk of suffering from cardio-vascular events. This is especially true when it comes to stroke. They concluded that this could be down to a variety of reasons, including the more laid back personalities of cat owners generally.
3Cats Reduce the Likelihood of Developing Allergies
If you’re reading this while sneezing into a tissue it might be too late for you. But your kid could still reap the benefits of growing up around a cat. A 2002 report from the National Institutes of Health concluded that children that were around cats in the first year of life were less likely to develop allergies. T whis wasn’t just pet allergies either. Marshall Plaut M.D., head of the allergic mechanisms department at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said: “high pet exposure early in life appears to protect against not only pet allergy but also other types of common allergies, such as allergy to dust mites, ragweed, and grass”. Toxoplasma gondii, a cat parasite that’s harmful to children, is still a concern, changing the litter box regularly will keep you safe.
4Cats Can Improve Your Heart Health
Pet ownership in general is good for the health of your heart, but cats are particularly beneficial. They help lower stress levels more significantly than dogs because they require less care and attention. One ten year study found that cat owners were 30% less likely to die from a heart attack than non-cat owners.
5Cats Can Prolong Your Life
While cats are generally beneficial to your health, this one is aiming at a specific group. Studies have shown that single or widowed people who own cats live longer than their non-cat owning friends. There are many reasons why this might be the case. The companionship of a cat often gives lonely people the contact they don’t have with other human beings, and caring for the animal gives a sense of purpose.
6Cats Can Reduce Stress
We’ve mentioned this above, but cats are a great way to deal with stress. Stroking a cat is an obvious stress-busting activity but did you know that a cat’s purr has genuine therapeutic properties? Cats purr at between 20 and 140Hz, a range which is known to have therapeutic benefits for many illnesses. As well as this, the chemicals released when we laugh at our cat’s antics help control cortisol, a stress-related hormone that can cause damage in the hippocampus.
7Cats Can Help Treat Depression
There are many reasons that the symptoms of depression can be relieved by cat therapy. Cats offer uncomplicated and unconditional friendship at a time when it may be difficult to interact with people. The responsibility of caring for the cat also provides focus and allows you to temporarily forget the fears and anxieties that accompany depression.
8Cats Can Help You Find a Partner
It should come as no surprise that pet owners are often attracted to like-minded people. However, there are some negative stereotypes attached to cat ownership. One survey found that women were more attracted to men who owned cats as they perceived them as more caring and sensitive compared to their non-cat owning compadres.
9Cats Can Help You to Cope with Loss
It’s incredibly painful to lose someone close to you, but pet ownership is a great way to help you cope with the loss. Cats help people to bounce back more quickly and they demonstrate fewer symptoms of pain. Cats can serve as a social crutch at a time when it may feel difficult to reach out and talk to other people. Despite the fact that they can’t talk back, many bereaved people will talk to their cat to externalize how they’re feeling.
10Cats Can Help You to Sleep Better
Several studies have concluded that many people would rather sleep with their cat than with their partner. More than that they reported sleeping better with the cat than their partner. The Mayo Clinic for Sleep Medicine released a study that found 41% of respondents reported that they slept better because of their pet while only 20% claimed it led to disturbed sleep.
11Cats Are Better For the Environment
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your pet, you’d be better off with a cat rather than a dog. A study in 2009 reported that over the course of a dog’s lifetime it consumes the same resources as an SUV. In contrast, cats only consumed the equivalent of a small hatchback. This is down to the smaller size and appetite of cats, and less focus on beef products in cat food.
12Cats Help Children with Autism
Cats are increasingly being used a therapy animals for a variety of different conditions. Social interactions prove difficult for children who are on the autism spectrum and they find it difficult to read the social cues of their peers. However, research has shown an increase in social interactions among autistic children after the introduction of a cat into the household around the age of 5.
13Cats Can Detect Extremes in Blood Sugar
There are many documented cases of dogs detecting disease in their human owners. What you might not realize is that cats have also been observed to predict illness. There are many cases of cats responding to elevated or dangerously low levels of blood sugar in their owners. The theory is that the cat is responding to the scent of ketones in the human’s breath. Quite how they learn that this spells danger is a complete mystery.
14Cats Can Improve Your Immune System
When we experience pleasure chemicals are released that counteract stress hormones and improve our mood. But they do more than that. They also help to improve the immune system by producing an antibacterial peptide and by enhancing the efficiency of various other aspects of the immune system. These include B cells, NK cells, T cells and immunoglobulins.
15Cats Can Help Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Animals have long been used to help people suffering from a variety of psychological conditions and this is also true in the case of PTSD. Cats are being used more and more to help veterans suffering from the effects of their traumatic experiences. Animals are dependent on the sufferer and place demands on their owners for food, care and grooming. This draws the focus away from the anxiety and traumatic memories experienced by the sufferer. In some cases it’s also true that animals reflect the mood of their human owners which gives the person an external indicator of changes in their own state of mind.