A recent article in the Huffington Post is suggesting that people’s obsessions with their cats actually makes them happier and healthier. I know this because my sister sent me the link 13 times along with several pictures of her cats in an attempt to change my opinion about my scientific views on cats.
Now, science has proven that owning a pet, be it a cat or a dog (or weasel if you’re in to that sort of thing), can help prevent allergies in kids, improve your mood, and even boost your self esteem. So why is it that cats are so special?
For one, cats can apparently help your heart. In 2008 the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute showed that cat owners are less likely to die from heart attacks. They figured this out by monitoring almost 4,500 people for a period of 10 years, and determined that the cat owners had a 30 percent lower risk of death by heart attack. They even went as far as to do a follow-up study a year later to confirm the results.
Now certainly there can be a ton of factors when it comes to heart disease, so I’m still not ready to just give cats the “Yay, You Prevent Heart Attacks” award just yet. Although there is some very convincing research that suggests that a cat’s purring can significantly reduce stress levels and blood pressure. Apparently a cat’s purring is at a frequency that is linked to medical benefits, which is handy considering that cat’s generally purr hen they want something. Just ask Karen McComb, who says cats may be exploiting “innate tendencies in humans to respond to cry-like sounds in the context of nurturing offspring.” Hey, if purring makes you happy, I guess the motives behind it aren’t important.
One aspect of cat owners that I can totally get on board with are the scores of cat pictures videos that flood the internet on a daily basis. I’ll give it to them, cats are hilarious. California’s Loma Linda University did a study last year that showed that watching just 20 minutes of funny videos significantly reduced subjects’ cortisol levels and assisted the short-term memory in older participants. Okay, I’ll give this one to the cats: Cats Can Make You Healthier.
But can owning a cat really make you happier?
Eckhart Tolle once said “I have lived with several Zen Masters — all of them cats.”
Cats have just about zero concept of stress, and that’s a philosophy I could easily adopt myself. Another thing that amazes me about cats is no matter how many times they fail, they will try something until they get it right. If you don’t believe that, get a laser pointer and see how many times a cat will chase that little red dot head-first into a wall. That kind of resiliency is a metaphor for life if I’ve ever heard one. Cat’s always seem to be the furry little masters of their domains, regardless of what is going on around them. Right up until the vacuum cleaner gets turned on.
Another cat-habit I can seriously appreciate is their superior napping abilities.
Science has shown us again and again that napping is good for us. Maybe cats are just trying to tell us that we need to slow down and appreciate that patch of sunlight on the floor? I mean, I have to admit that cats are pretty level-headed most of the time. If you have a dog you now how upsetting a door bell (even one on TV) can be. Cats on the other hand, could care less about that doorbell, only that the door be opened at their beckoning so that they can contemplate wether or not they want to go outside.
Even with their laid-back demeanor, cat’s can actually do some pretty amazing things when they want to.
Pet therapy in general is a science that is gaining a lot of credibility over the world, especially with children. There is a 5-year-old British girl named Iris Grace Halmshaw who was diagnosed with autism in 2011. Her therapy cat Thula has helped her gain the confidence to speak to others, as well as providing inspiration for her paintings, which are another component of her therapy.
I’m going to have to give it to the cats on this one, too.
Cats can make you happier. I think what’s more important here than any of the scientific research into why cats make you happier or healthier, is that you should always do what makes you happier and healthier regardless of the WHY. I mean, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledge that owning a pet – cat or otherwise – eases feelings of loneliness, which can help fight depression.
I guess I have to agree with Charles Dickens when he said “What greater love than the love of a cat?”
Photo source: Laurinha Lii