By definition, a “cat lady” is a single woman who owns many pet cats. They may have problems relating to other human beings, and may substitute cats for personal relationships with other people. You may view them as an older hermit of a woman, living a life of solitude with her many feline friends. There's even a cat lady action figure!
But these women, regardless of whether or not the stereotype about them is true, may be onto something. Recent studies have shown that people, especially women over the age of 50, benefit greatly from owning pets. Cats even prove more beneficial than dogs, though that may have to do with the personality of these cat lovers. Cats have been shown to improve the lives of their care takers, even improving the physical and mental health of their owners.
Why Do Women Benefit from Cat Ownership?
Single women over 50 are usually routine-oriented, home-based individuals who like their quiet down time—a cat's perfect match. As women age, their metabolism slows and they tend to become less active, according to the National Institutes of Health. Having a pet, even a cat, can drastically change this process. Just getting up to feed, care for, shop for, and clean up after your feline friend will help increase your cardio workout for the day (not to mention the weight lifting skills needed for those heavy bags of litter). A single woman wants to come home to share her day with someone, and who better than a cat? They listen, don't demand much other than food and never complain about the cooking. They make minimal messes in comparison to a dirty human and offer unconditional love and affection no matter what kind of mood you're in.
Cats have been clinically proven to improve people's health, women especially. There is a proven decrease in risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease or stroke when a woman over the age of 50 owns a cat. When you pet an animal, your body releases a surge of prolactin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These are all feel-good hormones that also help lower your stress level.
Happy Cat, Happy Life
When your day has you stressed out, don't reach for that glass of wine, sit down and pet your cat. The short and long term benefits greatly outweigh other modes of decompression. There have also been studies based on how cats improve depression and anxiety by giving their owners a sense of purpose and responsibility improve confidence, and keep them company. Those frisky felines do have a way to make us laugh, which is medicine in itself. Consider asking your doctor for a prescription for cat, instead. That's doctor's advice I'd be happy to take.
Over time, we can engage our pets for more benefits. We can play with them more, increasing our activity level and endorphins. We can be more affectionate with them, increasing our happy hormones. These actions will only reward us, in the long run, by improving our lives, our health, and enriching the lives of our beloved pets. I would even go as far to say that the more cats we keep, the greater the benefits! Spoken like a true cat lady.
Natasha Feduik is a licensed veterinary technician with Garden City Park Animal Hospital in New York, where she has been practicing for 10 years. Natasha received her degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. Natasha has two dogs, a cat and three birds at home and is passionate about helping people take the best possible care of their animal companions.