Author: Dr Sandra McCune, Society for Companion Animals:
The Christmas season is a time when we often think about loneliness and health. If we’re fortunate, we may try to spread some seasonal cheer to others. We might pop round to check on a neighbour who lives alone, meet up with friends we haven’t seen for a while or help someone in need. But the reality is, loneliness and health issues affect many people all year round. While there’s obviously no simple solution for everyone, help may be at hand in the form of a furry friend.
The Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) Christmas season wish for everyone is a happy, healthy life with a companion cat for those that can manage the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. Here are some reasons why cats can make our lives better.
Cats offer companionship and affection
Loneliness has become an epidemic in our modern world and has been made worse by the social restrictions of the COVID19 pandemic. Its impact can have devastating effects on health and wellbeing.
- The BBC’s 2018 Loneliness Experiment found that a third of people surveyed feel lonely often or very often
- Research suggests that social isolation affects life expectancy as much as smoking and obesity.
- Studies show lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression.
However, studies show promising results of the impact of pets on emotional wellbeing. A US based consumer survey in 2018, found that:
- 85% of respondents agree interaction with pets can help reduce loneliness
- 76% agree human-pet interactions can help address social isolation
- 72% believe human-animal interaction is good for their community
Of the pet-owning respondents:
- 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely
- 54% say their pet helps them connect with other people
Cats provide love and comfort and can boost our moods
The social restrictions of the Covid19 pandemic have left many people feeling isolated and lonely. Many owners reported that their cats reduced the sense of loneliness and fulfilled their need for love. Individuals enduring the pandemic alone found their cats to be a tremendous source of comfort.
Studies have shown that for people living with cats, interaction with their pet reduced negative moods such as anxiety and depression.
Pets may help us live healthier lives
Beyond emotional support, life with a cat can bring benefits for our physical health, too. Did you know pet owners have been estimated to save the NHS in the UK an estimated £2.45billion each year as they tend to visit doctors less often?
The mutuality of our relationship with companion animals makes it very special. The benefits we receive from them appear to be linked to the quality of the relationship we share and how attached we are to each other. The responsibilities of caring for a companion animal are significant and the decision should only be taken after careful consideration.
Cats comfort us and keep us company as we age
As we age, and our network of friends tends to shrink, cats may play an especially important role supporting our health and wellbeing. Sharing our lives with pets may provide physical, social and emotional benefits. These include:
- Offering opportunities to nurture and feel needed.
- Providing a structure and routine for daily life.
- Giving and receiving affection.
- Reducing loneliness and feelings of isolation.
Increasingly, research shows how relationships with cats may support successful aging:
- Cat ownership makes a significant difference in survival rate after a heart attack. 94% of heart patients with pets were still alive a year later, compared to 72% without pets.
- Pet owners over 65 are more likely to maintain the activities of daily living, such as climbing stairs, preparing meals and bathing independently than non-pet owners.
- People and pets can bring each other mutual support as they both age.
- Older, homebound pet owners have been shown to be better at paying attention, remembering details, and learning from past experiences than those who don’t own pets.
Cats bring us a special gift all year round. They are wonderful connectors, to us but also helping us to connect to our friends and family. So, this Christmas season, when you think about what you wish for the people you love, think about health, happiness AND cats. SCAS wishes you and your companion animals a very happy, safe time together over the Christmas season.
SCAS was established in 1979 to promote the study of human-companion animal interactions and raise awareness of the importance of pets in society.
Over the past forty years SCAS has established itself as the UK authority in Human-Companion Animal Bond Studies, funding research, providing education, raising awareness, encouraging best practice, and influencing the development of policies and practices that support the human-companion animal bond.
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