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The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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If you live with a feline companion, you probably already know that they can provide companionship and just generally make you feel better when you’ve had a bad day. What you might not know is that living with a cat provides a number of positive health benefits for both you and your family.

 

Though not all experts agree with the conclusions, at least one study has indicated that people who live with a cat have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This includes lowering the risk of having a heart attack. (Source: Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology)

 

Cats are also credited with helping to reduce stress levels, helping to reduce blood pressure, helping to lower cholesterol levels, and helping to reduce the risk of depression.

 

A more recent study found that children raised with pets may be healthier as well. Children raised in a home with cats (or dogs) were found to have fewer ear infections and respiratory problems than those without pets. (Source: Pediatrics)

 

Increasingly, we’ve been reading about toxoplasmosis in the media. Toxoplasmosis, as most of you probably already know, is a disease typically associated with cats. Besides being particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies, toxoplasmosis has been linked with numerous other problems, including an increased risk of suicide, schizophrenia and brain cancer. The nature of these links are far from being clear and the risk of getting toxoplasmosis from your pet cat is much lower than the risk of getting it from gardening or from eating improperly cooked meat or unwashed vegetables. Still, it’s nice to know that there are positive benefits to owning a cat that, at least in my opinion, outweigh any risks associated with toxoplasmosis and cat ownership.

 

I live with six cats. From my own personal experience, each has a unique personality. Two of them seem more empathetic than the others. When I’m feeling a bit under the weather, they’re the ones who come to lie on my lap or to nap beside me. Though having them near me doesn’t necessarily make the illness go away any faster, it certainly does provide comfort.

 

As for lowering blood pressure and relieving stress, I can’t claim to have measured my blood pressure or its reaction to my cats. However, I can tell you that when I’m upset or angry, having the cats near me does have a calming effect. I have absolutely no doubt that they help relieve much of the stress in my life and it wouldn’t surprise me that my blood pressure stays lower because of them.

 

Even more important than the health benefits, my cats provide companionship that is irreplaceable. I honestly can’t imagine living without them.

 

Dr. Lorie Huston

 

Image: love by clarissa rossarola / via Flickr

 

Comments  3

Leave Comment
  • Solitary Creatures
    08/06/2012 07:21am

    Anyone who thinks cats are solitary creatures hasn't witnessed the Thundering Herd fly down the stairs when I come home from work.

    One cannot get close enough to me and for another, it's a rare treat to share some lap time (he's just too busy doing other things). There are definitely a couple that sense a human's blue mood or a high level of stress.

    Each is special in their own way.

  • Cat Naps with cats
    08/06/2012 09:19pm

    Yes there are many health benefits.

    And the whole toxoplasmosis scare is so exaggerated. Pregnant women do not have to give up their pet cats. They should take caution to wash their hands, as we all should, in handling raw vegetables or after scooping cat litter.

    In October, for Breast Cancer awareness month, many doctors recommend that women with breast cancer get a cat and take cat naps. The reason is to encourage them to rest more.

    Watching my cats nap, I too am encouraged and take naps. I'm more rested, exercising more, and reach healthy weight.

    My thundering herd used to greet me everyday as well after work but now I work from home. Now I can take cat naps with them!

  • My purramedics
    08/07/2012 03:59pm

    My thundering herd also has calming and curative powers. When I have a hard time falling asleep, one of my cats is particularly good at curling up next to me and purring me to sleep. Any of them can make me feel better when I am sad by a judicious application of headbonks. Bad days would be worse without them.

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