Cats Can Fix Your Problems

Andrew Rhea

Cats have earned a reputation of distant and not loving pets, while in reality they have been proven to provide their owners with multiple health benefits.

Cats can reduce the risk of heart disease.  In one study, researchers followed 4,435 people for 13 years. People who had owned cats in the past were less likely to die from a heart attack during that time than people who had never owned cats. The study did take in account other risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and body mass index.

In another study, James Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania followed two dozen people who had just gotten a cat. They completed surveys within a day or two of bringing their cat home and then again, several times over the next 10 months. At the one-month mark, people had reduced health complaints like headaches, back pain, and cold. As Serpell speculates, it’s possible that people who form a good relationship with their cat continue to see benefits.

Cats can reduce stress. In one study, researchers visited 120 married couples in their homes to observe how they would respond to stress and whether cats were of any help. Hooked up to heart rate and blood pressure monitors, people were put through a gauntlet of daunting tasks: repeatedly subtracting three from a four-digit number, and then holding their hand in ice water for two minutes. People either sat in a room alone, with their pet roaming around, with their spouse, or both.

Before the stressful tasks began, the cat owners had a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure than people who didn’t own any pets. And during the tasks, the cat owners also fared better. They were more likely to feel challenged than threatened, their heart rate and blood pressure were lower, and they even made fewer math errors. Out of all the various scenarios, cat owners looked the calmest and made the fewest errors when their cat was present. In general, cat owners also recovered faster physiologically.

Cat can help cope with loss.  Cats have been shown to help people get over their loss more quickly and show fewer physical symptoms of pain, like crying. Even though they are only animals, cats serve as a social support during difficult times. People in mourning report talking to their pet to work out their feelings, since it is often easier to talk to something that won’t respond and can’t judge, compared to another human being.

Cats can help you sleep better. Several studies in the UK have found that people prefer to sleep with their cats over their partners, and they even report sleeping better with a cat than with a human bed companion. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine was able to confirm those findings: 41 percent of the people in that study indicated that they slept better because of their pet, while only 20 percent said that it led to disturbances.

Cats can help with loneliness.  If you feel lonely and need some companionship that doesn’t require a lot of energy, then a cat is the perfect choice. Cats are quiet companions in your life that offer a quiet meow when talking to them, or purr when you feed them. Cats are always there in your life; they will sit by your side and can sense when you feel sad.

According to a 2013 Veterinary Medical Association survey, pet ownership among single people is increasing. “It’s interesting to see that more and more single people are discovering the comfort and satisfaction that owning a pet can offer. Pets are powerful, positive influences on our lives, offering unique emotional, psychological and physical health benefits to their owners,” says Dr. Douglas Aspros, former president of the AVMA.