Cat ownership went through the roof during the pandemic — and for good reason. As reported by the BBC, nearly 12 million cats now provide Brits with play and plenty of purrs, and 74% of owners said that their new pet helped them cope with life in lockdown.
However, cats do far more than comfort you with cuddles and meows. Cats are fantastic for your mental and physical health. In fact, 8 out of 10 cat owners say that owning a pet has improved their overall health.
But if you’re new to cat ownership, the link between your feline friend and improved health might not be clear. So, here is a short introduction to some of the biggest health benefits of owning a cat.
You probably do your best to look on the bright side of life whenever possible, but, in reality, the pandemic was hard. You may have even experienced heightened periods of chronic stress which can easily weaken your immune system and increase your chance of developing conditions like heart disease or depression.
But cats have the potential to improve our resilience in the face of great stress. This sounds odd since your cat probably spends most of the day lounging in the sun and watching life go by the front window. However, a recent publication from Cornell Health Center suggests that petting a cat for 10 minutes decreased owners’ cortisol levels and resulted in a noticeable improvement in mood.
By bringing down your stress levels, it becomes easier to focus on the challenges in front of you, and you’re more likely to feel able to manage when life throws a spanner in the works.
The pandemic caused a 27% increase in drug and alcohol addiction in the UK. This is devastating news and may be exacerbated by a lack of access to support or feelings of loneliness during times of high transmission. Of course, if you are suffering from addiction you should seek professional help immediately, but you might also find some support in the form of a cat.
Now, owning a cat isn’t a magic solution that makes addiction disappear. But, cats can make the rehabilitation period far easier. That’s because the responsibility of cat ownership enhances most recovery plans.
For example, if you drink more often than you’d like, you can make a plan to quit alcohol that revolves around taking better care of your cat. This might mean that you turn down nights out to ensure that your kitten is well looked after. Or, if you find yourself feeling fidgety during recovery, you can find purpose in looking after your cat and put extra effort into preparing meals and creating cat dens instead of drinking.
Many pet owners assume that dogs are best for folks who want to use their pets to improve their physical health. However, research shows that owning a cat has a plethora of health-boosting benefits. In particular, a study of 2,400 cat owners found that, over 20 years, those who owned cats were significantly less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases.
It is worth noting that walking cats on leashes is not advisable. The RSPCA states that walking a cat on a harness or leash causes them to experience heightened stress, as cats’ instincts are to flee when scared and range around far more than human legs can handle.
Instead of taking your cat on a walk, think about using your cat as motivation to get in better shape by exercising more frequently — after all, you’ll be a far better play partner if you’re able to move with ease and don’t get out of breath.
Having a cat in your life truly is a blessing. Not only will your mental health likely improve, but your physical wellness will be bolstered by play sessions and cuddles with your feline friend. This is particularly good news for folks who have struggled over the past two years, as kittens and cats can fit into addiction recovery plans or even provide inspiration to get fit and take care of your health.