Are cats more beneficial to our health than dogs?

By Jo Singer

The Boyz
The Boyz. Photo by Jo Singer.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Those of us who live with felines are already keenly aware of the health benefits we get from sharing our homes and hearts with companion cats. Backing up this statement is the fascinating results of the second scientific study made at the University of Minnesota Stroke Research center published in the “Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology” which is more than sufficient to convince any nay-Sayers about its veracity. In fact, this article will cause feline aficionados to purr loudly and wholeheartedly agree with the researcher’s findings in regard to the feline species; cats are contributing more to human health benefits than their canine counterparts.

For a long time research has demonstrated that the relationship between dogs and humans can promote better health by lowering our blood pressure and giving a boost to our brain’s chemical balance; opening us to the pleasurable and special relationship we have with canines. But based on a study of 4,435 people followed for ten years; the potential medical benefits of being owned by cats apparently are more helpful.

Thus far, research scientists have learned that, “People without cats, or who never had cats, had a 40 percent greater risk to die of a heart attack and a 30 percent greater risk to die of any cardiovascular related disease. The study showed no such protective benefits for dog owners.”

Dr. Adnan-Qureshi, the Executive Director and lead investigator of the Minneapolis, Minnesota based Stoke Center reported, “We know that stress and anxiety are factors leading to cardiac disease. If a pet can ameliorate stress and anxiety, clearly having a pet is beneficial. In the past, studies have considered dogs but never cats. This is only one study, but it’s a start.”

In the follow up study researchers discovered that living with a cat holds greater health benefits than living with a dog. A conclusion reached in this study was” A decreased risk for death due to Myocardial infarction and all cardiovascular diseases (including stroke) was observed among persons with cats.”

Although Dr. Qureshi was unable to explain why his study, (which unlike others), was not able to show any protective value in owning a dog; he said, “Perhaps petting a cat is even more helpful than we thought.” The mystery remains why folks are benefited by petting a dog. Perhaps it is from the tail wag response we receive, a canine feedback that is pleasurable to us which can be considered therapeutic. But dogs cannot give us that auditory pleasure we receive from felines – that very soothing sound – the purr”

The study explored the “intrinsic medical value not yet discovered.” Dr, Edward Creagan, past president and consultant in medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, himself the guardian of two cats said, “We never even considered studying benefits of cats as a part of the equation because they’re considered aloof, and takers and not givers. Of course, these misconceptions and biases aren’t true about cats.”

Felines purr not only to communicate contentment, they also self-sooth by purring when they are in pain or close to death. Is it possible then that humans respond to purring in a similar manner? In his study, Dr. Qureshi took that theory into consideration and remarked, “If cats are able to self-soothe through purring, maybe the purring soothes humans in some way we don’t understand.”

Since it appears that cats do genuinely contribute to our health and wellbeing; even preventing serious illness from occurring, you can bet your whiskers since cats carry no nasty side-effects and wear no medication warning labels, I will beg my doctor to write a note indicating that our cats are a health necessity. But I am not yet positive that my prescription drug plan will cover the cost.

What health benefits have you derived from being owned by a cat? Tell us in a comment. Naturally I will be using them as backup when I submit my claim.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

55 thoughts on “Are cats more beneficial to our health than dogs?”

  1. My friends who are avid dog-people would argue in favor of dogs, especially when it comes to the added benefit of exercise, getting out and about, socializing with other dogs and their owners, and unconditional love. I had dogs when I was a child and cats all my life and am totally a cat-person.

    1. It always surprises me that people who like or love animals prefer so much a dog over a cat and vice-versa. I like both but prefer cats. Cats aren’t so hugely different. They used to be the same animal about 42 million years ago!

      1. Our cats sleep under the covers with me-as close as they can get next to me. They make fabulous bed-warmers on those chilly nights- and when they start purring, it is so relaxing- better than a sleeping pill. BUT if I start moving around to change my position too frequently for their taste- they jump out of the bed and go sleep on the living room couch. SIGH….

  2. My cats understand what makes a good life. They want a little adventure, a little exercise, good food, good sleep, companionship, cuddling and petting. They are good examples to follow if I want a good life. They make me slow down and spend some time sitting with them in the evening, petting them and relaxing; instead of being on my feet, running around the house doing errands all evening. They make sure that I have some pleasure and relaxation with them every evening. They know when it is time to go to bed, and when it is time to get up in the morning, and they get upset and meow at me if I don’t keep to the schedule – so they prevent me from staying up too late and messing up my sleep schedule. If I am injured or sad and I cry, they come running and try to comfort me – so I always feel that someone cares.

  3. Another classic photo i clicked on my tour. A gentleman from Australia named Ben with his dog on his Honda motorbike.I was strolling in Central Market in Phnom Penh when i suddenly came across this gentleman with a dog on a leash. Later by co-incidence i happened to see him on the mobike with his dog seated in front, first time i saw such a scene in my life, only in movies or T.v.Mr Ben told me he had settled in Cambodia for the last 15 years.He allowed me to photograph him, a prized photograph and i share the same with “P.O.C”, a prized “Cat Encyclopedia”.Dogs or cats, both are beneficial to human well-being Ben resembled a model of the “Harley Davidson Bikes” although he was riding a classic Honda. a unforgettable gentleman for his weird life and style.

    1. Nice photo Rudolph. The place looks quite westernised. This guy shows us the benefit of a dog companion. There isn’t much in it, in truth, between cats and dogs as companions. Each person has there own choice and a lot of the time people like both companion animals.

  4. Somehow the fundamental question here seems roughly equivalent to: “Which kind of child is better for parents— sons or daughters?”. The sense of competition (involving a winner and a loser) in this “argument” feels wrong to me. Aren’t dogs and cats each wonderful in their own right?

    1. Good point, Voysa. Cats and dogs are equal and good as companions. However, Jo, is exploring the idea that the cat brings something to the relationship that the dog does not and this unique attribute supports the inference that cats are more beneficial.

      The cat’s relationship to dogs is one of different species while son and daughter are the same species. I guess there is a difference, therefore when making comparisons.

      Happy Christmas to you and my love to all dogs and cats.

  5. Have just mental health, especially if you live alone.returned from a marathon 17 days tour of Vietnam & Cambodia where i did come across beautiful cats that made my solo journey a bit relaxing, reminding me of my own cats back home in Mumbai.Here is a photo of a freak dwarf cat with a docked tail that i photographed at the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap. A beautiful friendly cat that must have been owned by the restaurant in which i spotted it.Cats are beneficial to human

      1. This tail mystery has me fired up doing some research on bob-tail cats- Stay tuned!!

        However I did learn that the cat in the photo with the bobbed tail was, according to what I have been reading not “docked” but is a genetic pattern showing up frequently in the area.

    1. What a charming kitty- but aren’t they all? I am wondering if this kitty’s mom or dad was a Manx.

      Thanks for sharing that wonderful photo.

      Happy Holidays!

        1. Gee, I don’t believe I have met Rudolph yet. I will have to learn more about him. How can ANYONE dock tails or declaw cats- that is a nightmare in itself- docking tails- (unless there was a serious injury to the tail that required that surgery).

            1. Fascinating! Tigers and all wild cats MUST be kept in the wild or in top notch sanctuaries.

              They should never be kept as pets even though they are so adorable as cubs. They grow up to be very powerful and unpredictable animals.

              And they are magnificent. Thanks Michael.

      1. If the tail was not deliberately docked he may have the Manx gene. Sometimes people still dock tails as you know. This cat is in Vietnam. They may have some odd reason to dock the tail.

        1. Michael this cat was in Cambodia. A strange fact i noticed was that most cats in Vietnam & Cambodia have “Docked Tails”.In Vietnam, especially Hanoi “Dog Meat” is a delicacy in some parts although i didn’t come across anyone selling dog meat within the city.

  6. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

    Well, in fairness, walking dogs is a good stimulus to exercise. But I prefer to take two cats and not call the doctor in the morning.

      1. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

        I’m sure the cats would not mind if you got a cat stroller as long as you do not expect them to be in it while strolling.

    1. The cat helps to clear the head of some baggage or garbage which people have a tendency to accumulate. Cats lead much simpler purer lives and they live in the present. Humans chew on the past and are scared of the future.

  7. Studies also show that cats’ purrs are of a frequency conducive to healing and strengthening bones (their own, presumably, but also ours). And cats are (generally) serene, calm, peaceful and elegantly beautiful, all qualities which give us pleasure and make us feel similarly. Dogs, on the other hand, can be overactive, destructive, unhygienic, noisy, evil-smelling and so on. I have lived with cats from birth, and of course I favor them! Having also had to care for two dogs, I hope never to have to do so again; I wish them no harm unless they harm someone I love, including any feline, but I do not find them positive or beneficial in any way.

    1. Nice points. Modern human tends to rush around like a headless chicken. A cat’s calm and serene behavior helps create a mood that slows us down. Also I can’t resist just stopping and talking to my cat for a while. This slows me and helps put things in perspective.

  8. Well, I have never lived with dogs but I have lived with cats. At least one of my cats has always been a “nurse cat”…who seems to know when I am ill or injured or depressed and comes to spend more time with me curled up either next to me or ON me, purring away. A few years ago I injured my right leg quite badly and was in an immobilizing brace for three months ( yeah, that was not fun)I was in considerable pain for quite some time. As soon as I came home from the ER in a temporary device both cats came to me but Stella tried to jump ONTO my leg (OW!) Shadow jumped up carefully…looked at the device and slowly made her way next to me, curled up as close as she could and started purring up a storm. Now she purrs quite a bit anyway but this seemed like extra effort on her part. After a few minutes I was more relaxed and the pain was more tolerable. Now I was on pain meds, but they seemed to work more effectively when she was purring next to me. She usually prefers to be ON me, usually on my chest, but the whole time I was out of commission she would only put her front paws on me not her whole little self. I found that I slept better when she “purred me to sleep” which was thankfully almost every night. If I am sick, she will make sure to come and purr by me or on me and I always relax and feel better. Stella eventually found out how to be on the bed near me but avoiding my leg (I guess my scream the first time she jumped onto the brace gave her a hint…)and she stayed close as well. I absolutely believe that their purrs can soothe and relax us as well as themselves and when we are relaxed, we heal better. Thanks for a terrific article Jo and the pic of your gorgeous boys!

  9. Dee- thanks! They do have lovely ears!

    In fact, they are so sweet and yummy that Sir Hubble Pinkerton, (the white Oriental) will spend a great deal of time sucking on Dr. Hush Puppy’s ears- making them all yucky, sticky and wet. But Hush Puppy doesn’t seem to mind it at all. We suspect that this behavior is Hubble’s attempt to be soothed and calmed down- and Hush Puppy is purrfectly willing to lend an ear to his brother.

  10. I read an article in CatFancy awhile back about feline service animals (not sure which issue.) Apparently, soldiers with PTSD use cats to calm them down the same way that they use dogs. There are also firsthand accounts of cats alerting their owners to health problems just like dogs do (in the chicken soup books). The purring might be the thing that gives cats that edge, though. That’s one thing that dogs don’t do.

    1. Alyson, some prisons are giving shelter cats to inmates who meet stringent requirements to foster and care for. The cats not only help relax their caretakers, but also help put them in touch with their gentler side. The inmates deeply love their cats, and a strong bond develops between them.
      Once a permanent home is found for the cats, the inmates will get another foster to care for. It is indeed a win-win-win situation for all involved.

  11. Well, all I can say is that I have had cats all of my life (some dogs too) and had a stress test as well as a cardiac catheterization last year and was told that I have the coronary arteries of a 20 y/o. Ofcourse, I have to give a little credit to being vegetarian quite a long time.

      1. Yuppers! They can take that steak all the way to the grave. Some, literally, since red meat stays in the gut 20 years.

        My results were a little surprising since I am such a Type A personality. There isn’t anything “laid back” at all about me.
        My best friend, Amy, is completely opposite and sits in the chair just repeating, “What do you do with a whirling dervish? You just let her whirl!”

  12. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I think cats are so much more peaceful than dogs. Having grown up with dogs in the family I do love them but I longed for a cat all my childhood. After starting to work with dogs and cats I was desperate to have a cat to come home to and now have had the pleasure of them around for almost 40 years.
    Maybe cats are more suitable to older people who tend to like a more peaceful life, I couldn’t be doing with a dog now, barking and leaping and wanting attention all the time, where as I find it very easy to drop everything to spend time with our cats when they want me to.
    There is nothing in the world like a purring cat on your lap, it’s the greatest gift of all.

  13. While it’s common to see trained and certified service dogs; ie-guide dogs, and therapy dogs at work,there appears to be a growing trend for some folks to have their felines certified as “therapy” cats. While these cats were not opening doors, or picking up the phone to help their guardian, some people are finding that their cats calm and are reassuring. Some years ago I ran across a story about a woman whose muscular aches and pains were soothed greatly by her kitty sitting on her shoulders; the warmth of the cat’s body, and the texture of her fur helped to alleviate her pain.

    And while I highly disagree with the suggested requirement of not feeding a raw diet to a potential therapy cat- I found this article extremely interesting.

    Our two kitties are wonderful “therapists”, and I wouldn’t know what to do without them. As we play with them interactively we also receive the same benefits as walking a dog. I don’t know about your experiences with interactive play with your cats, but I for one can get extremely “tuckered out” following an interactive play session with our kitties.

    1. I am a fan of therapy cats. There are some famous ones. In America I think of Motzie an F2 Savannah cat and at one time the 2nd largest pet cat in the world (as claimed and probably true).

      In Britain I think of Dylan. A sweet, unglamorous moggie who truly represents all cats. The great majority of domestic cats can be therapy cats. Dylan is not a therapy cat but a fundraiser. He could be and should also me a therapy cat. Perhaps he is.

      There should be more therapy cats. When I have visited hospitals in the UK I have not seen a therapy cat. They appear to be far from the minds of administrators.

  14. I do believe cats are more healing than dogs. I just read a very interesting article on the “power of purring” and how it can actually help our body to heal. The only “one up” dogs may have on cats is that they get us out of our chairs to walk them and can be somewhat protective. That said, I’ll stay a cat person. I don’t think I could deal with the wet dog/muddy footprints all over (dog lovers…no offense intended)

      1. Cats/kittens are always more fun in twos. How about 2 cats and a dog? Seriously, I’d love to have a dog to walk but would probably be better off borrowing one! I always thought I’d get a dog after I retired, but still have 6 kitties…and still am not too sure about those muddy paw prints. 🙂

  15. Can not let this one go by with out saying something!!! As a multiple pet owner, 2 dogs and 7 cats I do have some experience in whether cats help or not. First of all I resent this Dr. Creagan says they never “considered studying cats because they are aloof and are takers and not givers!” Maybe his cats are like this but not all cats are by any means. There are many different signs that cats have wonderful healing powers. Their purr naturally is one, another is their really close physical bond with their owners. Cats and dogs don’t care what kind of day you had they are happy to see you when you come home. That in itself is very soothing and a stress reliever.

  16. The reason why dogs are healthy is because they get you out for a walk everyday. That has to outweigh alot of other things I must say.

    I’m surprised they don’t mention it.

    Dogs stress me out though. Unless they are calm and quiet – which is usually only very old dogs. I immediately feel stress when confronted with a dog. It’s like pushing a button. I value my personal space and my cats seem pretty sensitive to people’s personal space but dogs have no concept of it unless you tell them to bugger off and leave you alone in a loud shouty voice and even then it’s only good for the one time.

    Just my personal thing that is.

    I don’t understand why they don’t at least try and explain their findings.

    Does a cat’s purr send out vibrations, and electromagnetic energy that oscellate on a healthy ‘note’ – that are good for you, that have an unccanny ability to calm you down?

    I guess you know what I think the reasons are now anyway 🙂

  17. Oh yes they are since I stopped taking in rescue dogs my life and home have been much more stress free with only cats around and my kids feel it too.Cats are calming and undemanding and funny and I love having only them around now.

  18. Thanks, Jo, for a thought provoking article. The cat’s purr may indeed being doing more than we know. Sarah Hartwell reminded me that the cat purr has physical healing properties as well as mental. It is a form of selt-treatment for the cat.

    It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that people can receive the same benefit. It may be the case that the cat’s purr triggers a tangible healing process in the human. More research is required.

    What I particularly like is the point made that cats are not “takers” but givers. The cat gives in a more subtle way compared to the dog. The cat is less ostentatious to use a word to describe human behavior.

    For some lonely, elderly people, the cat’s presence in the home can make the difference between a mere existence and a meaningful life. The cat’s beneficial presence goes beyond the medical to the spiritual.

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