Why Owning a Cat is Good for Your Health

Owning a cat provides much-needed companionship. However, while having a feline friend reduces stress and anxiety, studies have shown that cats can help manage physical pain as well.

Dec 24, 2023byLauren Bentle
why owning cat is good for your health

According to Mental Health America, roughly 50 million Americans experience a mental illness. Unfortunately, 50% of those adults also do not receive any treatment. The CDC has gathered that even more Americans experience chronic pain as well. With so many people suffering, it’s critical to seek out natural and positive ways to help manage pain of all classifications.

While two or four-legged friends can provide comfort and encouragement, owning a cat has scientific benefits that many other animals may not.

Stress Reduction

cat relaxing on bed
Pixabay / Cat relaxing on bed

The age-old question of Cats Vs. Dogs: Who is Man’s Best Friend clearly shows that cats and dogs both bring companionship. However, there are several reasons why owning a cat is good for your health.

Almost everyone knows that cats love to have their heads petted and their chins scratched, but did you know that petting a cat can trigger the release of oxytocin in humans? Oxytocin is the hormone that boosts feelings of love, bonding, and connection. It helps reduce blood pressure and stress cortisol levels.

As you pet a cat, your blood pressure and heart rate lower, allowing your breathing and anxiety levels to normalize and correct themselves. Not only does petting a cat reduce your stress levels, but it also reduces theirs! A win-win for both the pet and the owner.

Increased Physical Activity

man and cat playing
Pexels / Man and cat playing

Cats may not be renowned for their physical needs, but they do require a good amount of exercise. Playing with your feline friend is essential for them, but it’s also great for you.

Physical activity helps both cat and owner maintain a healthy weight and release endorphins. Endorphins, also known as happy hormones, generate feelings of positive well-being, which reduces nervousness and tension. It may not seem like much, but even cleaning litter and filling food bowls help get older adults moving more than they would without a cat.

So, the next time you engage in a spirited game of chase or dangle a feather toy, you’re not just entertaining your furry friend—you’re nurturing your mental and emotional health.

Pain Management

older woman and cat
Getty Images

Endorphins and oxytocin generated when we engage our cat companions are known to play a role in the transmission of pain signals as well. Cats can help with chronic pain management, especially in older adults.

One of the differences between cats and other animals is that they purr when satisfied. When subject to petting, cats tend to produce purring sounds within a frequency range of 25 to 150 HZ. This frequency is similar to other pain interventions doctors implement for fractures, muscle strain, and to promote the healing of wounds.

Did you know that cats also purr when they are injured? Perhaps they are tapping into their own internal healing mechanisms!

While the amount of pain management a cat provides can depend on the temperament of the animal, most older adults did reap health benefits from owning a cat. So, if you’re injured or dealing with physical pain, try spending extra time with your feline.

woman smiling with cat
Unsplash / Woman smiling with cat

Cats also provide much-needed distraction and relaxation to people suffering from chronic pain. They remind their owners that they have something to live for and give them a reason to participate in life’s pursuits. The simple act of owning a cat may make an extreme difference in the purpose of one’s life when faced with the hopelessness that chronic pain may cause.

If you’re considering owning a cat to assist with pain management, these 8 Most Affectionate Cat Breeds may be for you.

Boosted Immune System

child hugging cat
Pixabay / Child hugging cat

Exposure to a cat’s fur and dander may help strengthen the immune system, particularly in children. Growing up with a cat in the home has been associated with a lower risk of developing allergies and respiratory infections. Additionally, research suggests that early contact with cats may contribute to developing a strong immune system overall. This could provide life-long protection against common allergens and cultivate overall respiratory health throughout adulthood.

One study in particular noted that babies who spend their first year of life with a cat have a lowered risk of asthma, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis. Reduced stress and increased physical activity from cat ownership also results in a boosted immune system over time.

Healthy Hearts

woman working on laptop with cat
Pexels / Woman working on laptop with cat

A 2009 study found that just the presence of a cat is good for your health when it comes to cardiovascular diseaseand heart issues. This includes heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. When associated with cat ownership, the risk of all three declines. Cat owners also report lower cholesterol, which can be a big factor in heart health. Part of this can be attributed to increased physical activity, stress relief, and the healing properties of a cat’s purr.

Even more so, another study from 2009 found that people who had never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had one previously. So, even if you don’t own a cat now, you are still reaping the benefits of having one in your lifetime.

Whether you’re in need of a companion, a reason to get off the couch, or simply want to be loved unconditionally, a cat could be the pet for you. The joys of cat ownership don’t end at the hours of love, joy, and laughs they provide. Overall, research concludes more and more that owning a cat is a great lifestyle choice as well. Consider making a feline addition to your life an investment in a healthier and happier you!

Lauren Bentle
byLauren Bentle

As a dedicated writer, Laura is passionate about nurturing the mind and soul through the written word. With a heart deeply rooted in her love of gardening, pets, and food, she crafts stories and articles that celebrate the beauty of life's simple pleasures.