The Surprising Link Between Cat Ownership and Brain Health

There’s a reason cat videos have taken the internet by storm—they make people feel good! In fact, a study of over 7,000 people showed that these videos helped decrease negative emotions in participants. If a cat on a screen can do this, it’s not surprising that our pet cats do the same, and more! Numerous studies have found links between cat ownership and cardiovascular health, including a reduction in blood pressure, incidents of heart attacks, and stroke.

Although pet lovers have long known the benefits of owning pets, there’s also research that shows a reduction in symptoms of stress, anxiety, and PTSD in those who own animals. Pets, like our beloved cats, provide comfort and companionship and can even give owners a sense of purpose and meaning.

A member of the Excited Cats veterinary team, Dr Chyrle Bonk, confirms that the responsibility and feeling of purpose that comes with being a pet parent are “factors that can also improve our brain health and function. Knowing your cat is depending on you and giving you a schedule to stick to can not only contribute to happiness but overall health as well.”

There’s more good news for pet owners, though—a new study suggests that pet ownership can also help boost brain health and may even slow down cognitive decline.

The 2010–2016 study followed almost 1,400 adult pet owners with an average age of 65, all of whom presented with normal cognitive abilities. Just over half the participants had pets and 32% of those were long-term pet owners. The participants were given multiple immediate and delayed cognitive tests including subtraction, backward counting, and word recall.

The researchers used these tests to develop an overall cognitive score for each person, ranging from zero to 27. Over the 6 years of the study, cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners than in non-pet owners, and this difference was even more apparent among long-term pet owners (5 years or more). In fact, by the end of the study, long-term pet owners had a cognitive composite score that was 1.2 points (5%) higher than non-pet owners. Further studies need to be done to understand the exact reason for these results, but cat owners will certainly have reasons of their own!

Veterinarians have also long understood the bond between cats and their owners. Dr Lorna Whittemore, a member of the veterinarian team at says, “every day veterinarians see, hear, and feel the incredible bonds that cats and their owners have. It is exciting to see science proving what many cat lovers feel to be true for themselves.”

A large reason for this delay in cognitive decline may be stress reduction. Stress is already well-known to affect cognitive function, especially in older populations. Since human-pet relationships can help lower stress and thus mitigate its effects, it stands to reason that cognitive decline would also slow with a four-legged feline friend companion.

Exercise also likely has a large part to play. Even small amounts of exercise can help improve overall health—including mental health. Even the mellowest cats need daily exercise, even if it’s just 15 minutes of active play with their owners or other animal companions. Providing this interaction and exercise may also have a role in the cognitive improvement of owners, and it certainly will improve your feline’s quality of life! There is little doubt that owning a cat, or any other pet, has proven benefits for both parties.

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