National Pet Month in the UK: Benefits of Companion Cats

A person drinking from a cup with a cat on his lap Description automatically generated with medium confidence

April is National Pet Month in the UK and SCAS is celebrating our special bond with cats and the benefits they bring to us.

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At the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) we love companion animals! Those of us fortunate enough to share our lives with a cat are the lucky ones. They enrich our lives, make us laugh, offer unconditional love, and help to connect us with our neighbours.

Research into the bond between people and pets has been growing rapidly over the last few decades. Many studies have reported April is National Pet Month or simply interacting with a pet, whether young or old and across socio-economic backgrounds.

A person drinking from a cup with a cat on his lap

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceCats offer companionship and affection

Loneliness has become an epidemic in our modern world and was made worse by the social restrictions of the COVID19 pandemic. Its impact can have devastating effects on health and wellbeing.

Owners have a strong sense that cats and other pets positively impact their emotional wellbeing. A US based consumer survey in 2018, found that:

  • 85% of respondents agreed interaction with pets can help reduce loneliness
  • 76% agreed human-pet interactions can help address social isolation
  • 72% believed human-animal interaction is good for their community

Of the pet-owning respondents:

  • 80% of pet owners said their pet makes them feel less lonely
  • 54% said their pet helps them to connect with other people

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Cats provide love and comfort and can boost our moods

The social restrictions of the Covid19 pandemic left many people feeling isolated and lonely. Many owners reported that their pets reduced the sense of loneliness and fulfilled their need for love. Individuals enduring the pandemic alone found their pets to be a tremendous source of comfort despite the additional challenges of looking after them under restricted conditions. One cat study showed that for people living with cats, interaction with them reduced negative moods such as anxiety and depression.

Cats 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.

A person sitting in a chair with a cat

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceCats comfort us and keep us company as we age

As we age, and our network of friends tends to shrink, companion animals may play an especially important role supporting active, healthy aging. 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:

Did you know cat ownership enriches the social connections in your community that increase getting to know people, making friends and social support? Pet owners, including those living with cats, were more likely to make friends with others in their community than non-pet owners. They are a great conversation opener after all which can be the start of a new relationship.

If you’d like to know more about SCAS and our work, please be sure to visit our website and conference page. Take out SCAS membership now to receive a discounted conference registration as well as other benefits such as free access to monthly SCAS webinars throughout the year from expert speakers.

Please remember that you can also join the SCAS social media community by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

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