Could Owning a Cat Improve Your Health?
When National Adopt-A-Cat Month comes around each year in June, it’s hard to resist those precious purring, biscuit-kneading feline friends looking for a “fur-ever” home. But did you also know that owning a cat could improve your health? Scientific research has shown that adopting and owning a feline friend could come with many health benefits.
Cats are a unique species of their own. They can cuddle their way into our hearts just as quickly as they can remind us of who’s in charge. Whether they are born in a shelter, surrendered or abandoned, 3.2 million cats find themselves in a shelter every year.
Created by the nationally-recognized American Humane organization in 1974, Adopt-A-Cat Month started as an initiative to remind people of all the cats and kittens who find themselves in animal shelters every year, waiting to be placed into a good home.
So, if you’re on the prowl for a new pet this year, consider taking home a furry feline. And if the person you share a house with needs a little extra convincing about your adoption plans, then here’s a few reasons why owning a cat could be beneficial to your health:
- It’s better for the environment. A 2009 study came to the conclusion that owning a dog could increase your carbon footprint versus owning a cat. It found that the resources needed to feed a dog over the course of its life create the same eco-footprint as that of a Land Cruiser. However, cats will eat less in general and more likely to eat fish than corn or beef-flavored products, and therefore only have the approximate carbon footprint of a small hatchback.
- Cats will help you cope with emotional pain. While losing a loved one is painful, having a pet to comfort you while you’re down is one of the best ways to cope with loss. According to research, cats have been shown to help people get over their loss more quickly and show fewer physical symptoms of pain, such as crying.
- Single and ready to mingle? Adopt a cat! A British poll found that 82 percent of women agreed they are more attracted to men who like animals. The same poll found that 90 percent of single women said that men who own a cat are “nicer” than other guys. However, this doesn’t mean you adopt a cat for a hot date and then dump it later – adopting a cat is a life changing moment that should be carefully considered.
- Cat owners are “more educated than dog owners”, according to a 2010 survey of British pet owners by the University of Bristol. The survey found that people who owned cats were more likely to have college degrees than those with dogs. In 2014, similar research was conducted by researcher in Wisconsin who surveyed 600 college students and found that cat owners “scored higher on intelligence than dog lovers.” Both surveys concluded that people who identified as dog lovers tended to have a more lively, energetic and outgoing personalities, versus cat owners, who were more introverted and tended to spend longer hours working or studying.
- Owning a cat leads to a healthier heart. While owning any pet is good for your heart, cats in particular help lower your stress level and reduce your risk for a heart attack by nearly one third, according to research that was announced at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in 2008. The reason being that cats have a positive and calming effect on people due to their instinct as a lap animal and the purring sounds they make. Researchers found that over a 10-year period, cat owners were 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack compared to non-cat owners.
- Cats can help with allergies. In 2002, the National Institutes of Health released a study that found children under a year old who were exposed to cat were less likely to develop allergies compared with children raised without pets. Having this exposure as a child, not only helped with pet allergies, but also with other types of common allergies such as dust mites, ragweed and grass.
Now that you have six good reasons to convince your partner or roommate to let you adopt a cat, you might need to know a few things about the adoption process that could come in handy.
Adopting a Furry Feline
Each year, around 1.6 million cats are adopted and taken into loving homes, according to the ASPCA. And if you already own a cat, you’re not alone – it’s estimated that 85.8 million cats are owned throughout the United States.
If you’re contemplating adopting a cat for the first time, here’s a few things you might want to take into consideration before making a decision:
- Adopting two cats instead of one – In order for cats to get exercise, mental stimulation and social interactions, taking home two cats can provide this for each other
- Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours – Prior to adopting, be sure to take into consideration the time that you have for an active kitten or perhaps an adult cat is more your pace; in general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easy going than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair
- Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit – Depending on where you receive your feline companion, they may come with medical records such as their vaccinations; be sure to bring those with you to the vet’s office so that they can accurately examine your cat
- Make sure everyone is prepared to have a cat before it comes home – Visit the shelter or animal facility with family and make sure everyone is compatible; if you’re adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, be sure to introduce them and be sure their personalities also mesh
- Budget for the short- and long-term cost of a cat – As with any pet, there is a responsibility and cost associated with taking care of them; adopting from a shelter could be the way to go in a financial crunch because many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering
- Stock up on supplies and cat-proof your home – Purchase items before the cat arrives to your home, such as a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, toys, etc.; it’s also a good idea to store away items that your cat could try to chew on or play with, such as electrical cords
- Introduce your cat to new friends and family slowly – It can take several weeks for a cat to become acclimated to its environment; it’s a good idea to have a space ready for them to decompress or to hide in, if necessary
- Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan – If you have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency, be sure to adjust the plan to include your pets; add phone numbers for your veterinarian and the closest 24-hour animal hospital on your emergency list
- If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process – The pet adoption process typically doesn’t come with a return receipt, so it’s always best to make sure the person receiving the cat is well aware of the responsibilities that’s coming their way
Hopefully you’ve gained some convincing strategies and useful information to persuade your friends and family into adopting a cat this month. You can start your adoption process by checking out your local animal shelter and seeing all the “purrrfect” cats and kittens they have available. If you aren’t able to adopt, consider volunteering or making a donation to your local shelter, who should have a list of items that they need.
If you end up adopting a shelter cat or have in the past, you can promote Adopt-A-Cat Month by taking a picture or selfie with your “furbaby” and share it on social media using #AdoptACatMonth.