By Jo Singer

The Boyz. Photo by Jo Singer.

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.

Jo

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • 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.

    • 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!

  • Yes my cat always snuggles on bed with me more when I am unwell. I had forgotten she did that until I read all these posts.

      • 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....

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Here is a classic black cat that i spotted on the roof of a house in the heritage city of Hoi An in Vietnam.A total wild cat akin to a black leopard.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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!

      • 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.

        • 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.

      • Jo, you might know Rudolph. He lives in Mumbai and is PoC's correspondent in India and Asia! Great guy. He has two Persian cats.

        • 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).

      • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

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