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In This Article
In This Article
Cats are beloved pets that bring physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to their owners. Beyond providing companionship and unconditional love, modern studies show that cats are wonderful for your well-being.
If you’re looking to become a cat owner, you can definitely look forward to how much they can uplift you and change your day-to-day for the better.
Brief History of Cats as Pets
Cats have been domesticated companions to humans for centuries, evidenced by a strong bond between people and cats worldwide.
This relationship started 4,000 years ago when farmers near Eastern Mediterranean storehouses allowed wild cats to act as mousers. As the cats bred with wildcats, tame kittens were born, forming a relationship of interdependence1 over time.
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Caring for cats offers a world of rewards, from fostering purpose to providing companionship. Numerous mental health benefits are associated with owning cats, such as:
Reduces stress — Cats are more than our fluffy companions—their purring could have beneficial effects on our physical and mental health. According to Gary Weitzman, a veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society featured in BBC Future, we may be drawn to cats' calming humming2 like we are naturally inclined towards soothing ocean waves.
Improves mood — Cuddling with a furry friend could be the key to reducing stress and improving your mental health. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can launch an emotional transformation in even hardened criminals—prompting feelings of tenderness and companionship for the first time.3
Petting, hugging, or stroking animals is also known to rapidly relax individuals who are feeling anxious, while their presence alone encourages healthy exercise, elevating one's moods naturally.
Enhances social connections — Possessing cats provides ample opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other pet owners and, in turn, empathy, comfort, and community.
Boosts self-esteem — Taking care of another living being provides a sense of purpose and satisfaction that can boost self-esteem.4
Promotes relaxation — Having a calm companion who's always happy to spend time with you can help reduce muscle tension, lower heart rate, and blood pressure, and promote relaxation.5
Encourages a healthy routine — Cats require regular care and attention, which encourages healthy daily habits in their owners, such as being mindful about when it’s time to eat, tidy up, etc.
Physical Health Benefits of Having a Cat
The physical benefits of owning cats are just as significant as the mental and emotional ones. Here are a few of the most significant ways cats can improve their owners' physical health:
Increases physical activity — Playing with cats or taking them for walks encourages owners to increase their physical activity.6
Enhances immune system — Owning cats can reduce allergic reactions, improve an individual's immune system7 and help fight illnesses.
Reduces asthma symptoms — Studies have shown that children with cat allergies may have less severe asthma symptoms than those without.8 According to research, exposure to Fel d 1 in a home with cats is much greater than necessary for an allergic reaction (IgE antibody). For this reason, children may build up a tolerance that can last for many years.
Reduces risk of heart disease —Petting animals, including cats, has been linked to the release of oxytocin which can reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure—all factors associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Improves cardiovascular health — The presence of pets may help improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.9
Decreases risk of stroke — Owning a cat has been linked to a lower risk of stroke, potentially due to the calming effects of petting animals.10
Healthy Lifestyle Changes Cats Influence
Not only do cats improve their owners' physical and mental health, but they also encourage healthy lifestyle changes. These include:
Regular Exercise — Caring for cats can encourage regular exercise, such as playing with them.
Reduced stress levels —Spending time with cats has been linked to reduced stress levels which can lead to better mental health.5
Increased socialization —Taking care of a cat encourages interaction with other pet owners, leading to greater feelings of connectedness and support.
Improved sleep quality —Cuddling with a cat before bed can help increase relaxation sleep and decrease stress levels, resulting in better sleep quality.12
Cats as Emotional Support Animals
For people with disabilities, mental health issues, or even people who just want a bit of comfort, a cat can be a great friend and companion. Here are some examples:
Emotional support animals — Cats can provide therapeutic companionship and comfort people with physical or mental illnesses.
Hearing assistance — Dogs have been commonly used as hearing assistance animals. However, cats are also good options for those with hearing impairments. Cats are being trained as hearing assistance animals for deaf individuals, alerting them to sounds, such as an alarm clock or doorbell, that they cannot hear. This service could also be especially beneficial for those who are hard of hearing but not completely deaf.
Autism support — Cats can help autistic individuals with communication and socialization skills by providing emotional support and companionship.11
PTSD support —Cats can provide calming companionship to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), enabling them to cope with their symptoms better.
Visual assistance —Cats can be trained as guide animals for the visually impaired, helping them navigate unfamiliar environments safely.
How to Find the Perfect Cat for You
If you're searching for the ideal feline to join your family, here are a few helpful tips that may help you decide:
Consider your living situation — If you live in an apartment, you may want to choose a breed of cat that is more suited to indoor living. For those living in a house, consider whether you can provide adequate outdoor space for your new pet.
Research breeds — Find out which breeds have the personality and temperament traits most suitable for your lifestyle.
Meet potential cats — Spend time with cats at shelters or breeders before making your decision so that you can assess their personalities and behavior.
Consider your energy level —Choose a cat that is compatible with your energy level—if you aren’t very active, a calmer cat may be the right choice.
Look at its health conditions — Make sure to choose a healthy cat and ask the shelter or breeder about its health history. A healthy cat is:
Up-to-date on annual shots
On a regular flea prevention program
Groomed regularly to keep their coat clean and free of matting
Has a good diet that is age appropriate
Consider longevity — Different cats have different lifespans. A pet is a long-time commitment, not something people can pass on when bored. Make sure you are prepared to commit to caring for your pet long-term.
Think about adopting — Consider adopting an older cat from a shelter, as these cats often don't get adopted and need a loving home. Older cats may just suit your lifestyle.
Consider age — Choose a cat at the appropriate age for you. If you have children, an older cat may be more suitable than a kitten because it will be calmer and require less training.
Think about grooming requirements — Long-haired cats require more grooming than short-haired cats, so ensure you can provide the care they need.
Ask for advice — If you need help deciding which breed of cat to choose, reach out to a veterinarian or shelter for advice on finding the perfect cat.
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Emjay is a content writer for Know Your DNA. As a Physical Therapist and a registered nurse, she has extensive medical knowledge and hands-on experience in patient care. After getting her nursing license, she pursued full-time writing focused on healthcare.