They’re fluffy, independent and affectionate, and while cats require much less attention than dogs and often keep to themselves, owning a cat or kitten can provide multiple benefits for your health. Whether you own a friendly lap cat or a quiet introvert, the sense of companionship and love you have for your pet can be just as enriching as any other friendship.
Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
Reduces stress and anxiety: Owning a cat can can be soothing and trigger calming chemicals in the body, decreasing stress and anxiety levels. Cats are known for being low-maintenance, so a simple petting session is often enough to relax owners and distract them from other worries.
Decreases risk of stroke: Studies show that cat owners are less likely to be at risk for having a stroke than any other pet owner. Scientists speculate this is also because of a cat’s low-maintenance ownership.
Therapeutic benefits: The calming effect of owning a cat triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone known for inducing feelings of love and trust. People going through difficult times of grief or mourning report that talking to their pet helps work out their feelings, since it is often easier to talk to something that won’t respond and can’t judge than to another human being. In addition, a study found that children with autism were more likely to be less anxious and calm while petting a cat.
Boosts immunity: Exposure to pet dander and fur in the house results in increased resistance to allergens, decreasing risk for allergies and asthma.
Lowers blood pressure: Cat owners are known to have lower blood pressure than non-cat owners due to the calming presence cats provide. One study was conducted with a room full of cat owners. In the study, the owners would speak aloud, which naturally elevated blood pressure levels, but when the owners were observed speaking with their cats, their blood pressure remained constant.
Decreases risk of heart disease and heart attacks: A study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis have shown that those who do not own cats are 30-40% more likely to die of heart attacks than their cat-owning counterparts.
Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol levels: High triglyceride and cholesterol levels contribute to heart disease and are symptomatic of type 2 diabetes as well as strokes, liver and kidney disease. Naturally, reductions in these levels lead to a decreased risk in these diseases.
Increase sociability: Cat ownership provides a natural conversation starter and can enhance the owner’s ability to socialize. One study revealed that women were more attracted to men who owned cats because cat ownership often suggests sensitivity and intelligence.
Provide companionship: Owning a cat reduces feelings of loneliness. Though cats are often known for their independence, the bond between a cat and its owner reinforces companionship. A Swiss study conducted in 2003 revealed that owning a cat is similar to having a romantic partner.
Reduces your carbon footprint: A 2009 study found that over its lifetime, the resources needed to feed a dog make the same eco-footprint as that of a Hummer. Meanwhile, cats—which eat less in general and are more likely to eat fish than corn or beef flavored products—only have the approximate carbon footprint of a Volkswagen Golf.