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How Cats Keep You Healthy

Laila A. Hardy, ASPCA

The Cat in Your Life.

It is one of those awful days when your alarm never goes off and you spend the entire day playing catch up. While you are running yourself ragged over projects and errands, your car gives in to old age and goes caput. After the tow truck takes your car and patience away, it is time to call it a day. Your anxiety and frustration level has hit its all time high. Finally when you make it home you are greeted by two of your biggest fans Oscar and Sasha, two wonderful felines adopted from the local SPCA. An uneventful day has yet to occur since their arrival.

How Cats Keep You Healthy


Still reeling from the day’s events you make your way to the room, but not without Sasha doing her usual swift body rub against your leg. After dropping your bags and settling in, Oscar makes his way on to your lap and signals that he would enjoy a few scratches behind the ear and neck. As you engage, your body slowly starts to unwind. Your breathing starts to relax. Tension drains from your shoulders. A smile comes about without any force. Before you know it, both you and Oscar are at peace enjoying the moment. In these simple moments, thoughts of the day have drifted further from your mind and your anxiety level has dropped, helping you let go of negative feelings that have accumulated over the last 10 hours.

Sound unbelievable that a cat can do all this? Well, it is true. Studies have shown that the mere act of stroking a cat for several minutes helps to release “feel good” endorphins in the brain, producing the feeling of tranquility in the stroker. But petting alone is not the only stress reliever. Depression and sadness are heightened by loneliness or a sense of isolation. Pets offer constant companionship and unconditional love. For instance, when the kids have gone off to school or a spouse is lost, being home alone can be overwhelming. But if you have an Oscar or a Sasha to keep you company while reading the morning paper, loneliness isn’t all encompassing. Their presence helps to contribute to a complete home.

Nurturing a cat is soothing and fulfills that certain need for humans to be caregivers. Shopping takes on an additional dimension when you have a cat at home. Food, litter and toys need to be added to your cart. What fun awaits when you have new treats and toys for the loyal kitty! Cats love to explore and see what is in that shopping bag or behind that most fascinating closet door. Joining in on some interactive cat play with a new feather wand or kitty fishing pole lightens up your mood. Laughter and smiles seem to come when they usually wouldn’t.

In order to protect our health, studies have shown friends and family support is essential. Pets help us sustain that healthy emotional balance when we treat them as family or friends. Having a cat around contributes to the feeling of family, therefore contributes to a healthy balance. Pet owners enter hospitals less frequently than non-pet owners; and when hospitalized, pet owners have shorter stays. Pet keepers have a reason to get better. They have to get home to the cat!

© 2002 ASPCA

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