Science Confirms That People Who Own Cats Are Healthier

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Here’s good news for cat lovers everywhere: owning a cat is good for your health, and science has proven it again and again. It’s long been known that pets can boost people’s physical, mental and emotional health.

Any cat owner can tell you that cuddling a cat can lift your spirits, but studies have also demonstrated that owning pets reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, and could even potentially save your life.

Let’s look at some research studies that show how cat ownership makes you healthier and happier.

Owning Cats Reduces Your Risk of Dying From Heart Attack and Stroke

According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, cat owners had a decreased risk of death due to heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

After adjusting for different risk factors like age, gender, ethnicity, blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and body mass index, researchers discovered that study participants with past cat ownership had a significantly lower relative risk of dying from a heart attack when compared to people who had never owned cats.

Even participants who owned cats in the past but did not currently have a cat showed a decreased risk for death due to cardiovascular diseases.

Children Who Live With Multiple Cats or Dogs May Have Fewer Allergies

is cat insurance really worth it

Baby on the way? Don’t get rid of your pets. In fact, you may want to get a few more. A study published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children who shared homes with two or more dogs or cats during their first year of life may have a reduced risk of allergic sensitization to multiple allergens during childhood, compared to children who did not live with any pets.

It was theorized that high exposure to pet allergens somehow prevents the development of allergies. Allergic sensitization (the process by which the body becomes sensitive to a specific allergen) is strongly associated with childhood asthma.

Cat Adoption Lowers Autism Stress

Baby napping with kitten

Children who grow up with one or more pets may be at lower risk of developing allergies.

A first-of-its-kind study published in 2020 online in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing demonstrated that adopting a cat is associated with greater empathy, less separation anxiety, and fewer problem behaviors for children with autism spectrum disorders. For the study, shelter cats were temperament screened prior to the adoptions and were chosen for their calm temperaments.

Led by researchers from the University of Missouri, the study was funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Winn Feline Foundation. Both children and parents reported forming strong bonds with their new feline family members.

A separate study, also out of the University of Missouri, showed that pet ownership (dog or cat) decreased anxiety and increased social interaction for autistic children.

It also decreased stress for the children and their parents. Participants reported that the benefits of pet ownership outweighed the burdens of caring for the pet.

Cats Improve Our Mental and Physical Health

Cuddling cat

Your cat brings great health benefits simply by being your loving companion.

The nonprofit health care network Dignity Health recently conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. cat and dog owners.

The findings of the survey showed that pet owners reported that their furry companions improved their physical and mental health, with 88% saying their pet helped improve their mental health, 83% saying their pet makes them a more active person, and 81% saying their pet makes them a healthier person.

Additionally, respondents reported that their pet has made them a more social person (64%), their pet has made them a better friend to others (66%), and their pet has taught them skills that have helped to improve their personal relationships (67%).

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About Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is a senior content editor on the editorial team. She also writes on all pet and veterinary topics, including general health and care, nutrition, grooming, behavior, training, veterinary and health topics, rescue and animal welfare, lifestyle, and the human-animal bond. Jackie is the former editor of numerous pet magazines and is a regular contributor to pet magazines and websites.

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  1. Phoebe

    Would like your opinion and/or any research you know of about whether it is necessary for an exclusively indoor cat to get rabies shots? My vet and I are at loggerheads about this . Am enjoying your articles and so is my cat!