Those who like cats, love them. But let’s be honest – our feline friends do not enjoy a great reputation. From finicky and standoffish, to allergenic and even evil, cats have gotten a very bad rap. And while they’re wired to be independent, it doesn’t mean they can’t be loyal and affectionate. They may not be as overt and shamelessly affectionate as their canine counterparts, but they have their own way of showing their people how much they love and need them. And guess what? We may need them too. Recent studies show that owning a cat can actually be beneficial to our health, and we’ve dug into the research that has shown just how our feline friends make our lives better.
The simple act of stroking a cat can lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can wreak havoc on the body and mind. Petting a cat (or a dog) can help lower stress. No wonder there are so many programs that bring pets into high stress zones such as classrooms and hospitals.
Minimizing Risk of Disease
Eat well, exercise often, and own a cat? Yes, you read that correctly. New research has shown that owning a cat can lower the risk of having a stroke by up to a third. Additionally, cat owners have a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases. The best part is, you don’t even need to be a current cat owner to benefit. According to a Canadian study, cats are more effective than medication in preventing heart disease, and even former cat owners were 40% less likely to suffer from heart attacks. Researchers aren’t sure why but we’ll take those odds!
Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
A person sharing their bed with a pet may enjoy a better night’s sleep than someone who sleeps alone. Sure, cats may take over the bed, the covers and the pillows, but knowing they’re nearby helps their owners rest easy, resulting in deeper and more restful sleep cycles.
Benefits of Purring
Researchers believe that, aside from being a telltale sign of happiness, cats purr at a level that can help heal bones and soft tissues in their body. Being around them, it turns out, can help heal us too. A cat’s purr resonates in the 18-35Hz spectrum. Scientists have discovered that this frequency can help humans heal after injury or trauma.
Early Exposure May Prevent Allergies
Think pets cause allergies? Not so fast. Studies in the US by allergy and environmental health organizations have found that children who live in homes with two or more cats or dogs in early childhood are statistically less likely to develop allergies than their pet-less peers. These allergies extend beyond pets. Early exposure may protect against other allergens too, such as grass, dust mites and ragweed.
Scientists aren’t quite sure why there is a correlation between cat ownership and allergy protection, but doctors no longer warn new parents about the risk of pet-related allergies. In fact, cat dander may actually help the body’s immune system deal with environmental irritants. A cat in the family helps reduce the chance of childhood lung diseases including asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis in children who are genetically predisposed to be at risk for breathing disorders.
Caring for a cat can be the perfect antidote to loneliness and depression. When humans hang out with their pets, their oxytocin levels rise, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oxytocin, the happiness hormone, makes us feel at ease and secure. Additionally, playing with a cat can release dopamine and serotonin, feel-good neurotransmitters which help regulate moods.
Cat people, rejoice! Not only are your feline friends adorable and (usually) low maintenance, they’re downright good for your health too!
Featured photo via Unsplash
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