Your kitty quickly becomes an integral part of your family -- and it’s possible that she gives back by helping you live longer. Researchers are checking potential correlations between you loving your kitty with all your heart and your heart pumping longer.
Heart Attack and Stroke
In a 20-year study that ended in 2009, neurologist Adnan Qureshi of the University of Minnesota Stroke Institute found that cat owners seemed much less likely to die of heart attack and stroke than people who had never known the love of a cat. Non-cat owners were 40 percent more likely to die of a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to die of another cardiovascular disease, including stroke, than people from cat families. People who owned dogs but no cats didn't enjoy the same benefit -- the research showed the heart attack discrepancy only in previous and current cat owners.
A stressful day can be turned around when you come home to the happy face-rubbing of your feline friend. She might even sit still for a few minutes while you stroke her back, and she could perhaps deign to swipe at the toy you dangle over her head. All these actions help the stress melt away by reducing the cortisol, or stress hormone, levels in your brain, notes natural health doctor and Dr. Oz contributor Mao Shing Ni.
As a cat owner, you're less likely to be worried about high blood pressure, according to a study by Australia's Baker Medical Research Institute. The research shows pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure than people who don't have pets -- even when the pet parents ate a more unhealthy diet.
Cats do more than give you company -- they can also keep the doctor away. Cat parents tend to visit the doctor less frequently than non-owners. Whether it's the stronger immune system that develops from laughing at your kitty or a physiological increase in secretory immunoglobulin A -- part of your immune system -- that occurs when you pet your cat, you're likely to avoid common cold more often than non-owners. People with chronic diseases or painful conditions such as fibromyalgia often find purpose in their kitties: a reason to get out of bed and a motivation to be productive. Petting and playing with your cat can distract you from illness and pain when it occurs.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology: Cat Ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases
- Medical Journal of Australia: Pet Ownership and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
- Dr. Oz: Live Longer With Pets
- ABC News: Can Having a Cat Lower Your Heart Attack Risk?
- Herald Sun: Cats Can Lower Stress and Help Owners Live Longer
- Chicago Tribune: Cats May Purr to Your Heart's Content