Good News, Fellow Grandmillennials - Owning Cats Is Actually Good For Your Health

While dogs are famously considered "man's best friend," cats deserve a moment in the spotlight as well. Due to their more reserved nature, cats tend to be misunderstood. But they can be some of the most loving and loyal pets, even when they're ruling the household and climbing your curtains. Cat owners sometimes get a bad rap, too, but we think it's time to put that negative "cat lady" archetype to rest. In fact, there's scientific proof that being a cat owner is good for you, both mentally and physically. 


These fluffy companions have the power to keep our minds and hearts healthy, from lowering blood pressure to giving us a better outlook on life. If you're not a cat person, we hope to open your mind and convince you just a little bit. And if you're already a cat person, this might make you love them more, if that's even possible.

Cats lower our stress

Watching your sleeping cat who doesn't have a care in the world, you probably wish for that level of calm in your life. But it turns out cats can help us keep a cool head. At the end of a long and stressful workday, you feel your worries melt away as soon as you see their adorable faces waiting for you to play. The effects that pets have on stress levels is something that scientists have studied for decades, and research has shown that cats can significantly lower the stress of their human pals. According to Purina, spending just 15 to 30 minutes of quality time with your cat can make you feel calmer.


In a 2002 study from the Psychosomatic Medicine journal, researchers asked 240 married couples, half of whom were pet-owners, to perform a series of stress tests. The subjects were assigned to complete the tests in different conditions: alone, with their spouse, with their pet, or with their spouse and pet in the room with them. The researchers found that the pet owners had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels as well as faster recovery. When put into stressful situations with their pet in the room with them, they remained calmer compared to those who performed the tests alone or without pets. If you feel calmer in the presence of your cat, it might be because they are lowering your heart rate just by being there. 


Good for the heart

When our stress is low, our hearts are happier. We don't just mean emotionally; cats can actually lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, there was a decreased risk for death due to cardiovascular diseases like stroke or heart attack in people who owned cats. While other lifestyle choices like diet and exercise play a large role in keeping your heart healthy, owning a cat can certainly help. 


Another study from The American Journal of Cardiology in 1995 examined pet ownership as an effective form of social support for survivors of coronary artery disease. The researchers found that pet owners were more likely to survive at least one year after a heart attack compared to those without pets or other social support. While it's our job to keep our pets alive and well, who knew they could do the same for us? 

Cats as emotional support animals

Though cats are not legally recognized as service animals like dogs are, they can qualify as emotional support animals for therapeutic purposes. Cats can help people feel better after panic attacks and bring relief for those with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the US Service Animals website. With guidance from a mental health professional, your cat can be registered as an emotional support animal as you see fit. One of the many benefits of registering a pet, besides the unconditional love and support, is that they are protected under the Fair Housing Agreements Act, which grants housing rights to the animal even if a living space has a "no pet policy." 


Emotional support animals have been an increasingly popular form of therapy on high school and college campuses during exam season. In 2019, students at Washington State University participated in a study where they interacted with therapy cats and dogs on their own campus. After only 10 minutes of petting cats and dogs, the students' cortisol levels (the hormone released when we feel stressed) lowered, offering some much needed relief before their stressful exams.

The power of the purr

Like the "meow," the purr is one of the most common sounds we hear from cats. A cat might purr to express contentment, like when they see you open up a can of their favorite food or pet them in a spot they like. A more surprising function of the purr is to soothe pain. A 2001 study showed that purring can act as an internal healing mechanism for cats, both domestic and wild. The vibration frequencies can actually help heal their wounds and ease pain. 


You might notice a warm and fuzzy feeling come over you when a cat purrs on your lap. Believe it or not, there's a reason for this. It also turns out purring is healing for humans as well. Veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society Dr. Gary Weitzman spoke with BBC Future to explain the healing power of a cat's purr. "Purrs at a frequency of 25-100 Hz correspond with established healing frequencies in therapeutic medicine for humans," he explains. "Bone responds to 25-50Hz and skin and soft tissues to around 100 Hz according to researchers." Beyond the physiological effects of purring, he points out that a cat's purr is inherently calming to us due to these frequency levels. 

Catching Z's with your cat

Sleeping with your cat can be a peaceful bonding experience. In the same way a weighted blanket might help with insomnia and anxiety, a cat sleeping on your body might have a similar effect. "People often describe feeling more bonded to their cats if they sleep in their room and also if they spend more time touching them," says certified cat behaviorist Janet Cutler, Ph.D., per Sleep Advisor. "Many cats also choose to spend time on the bed, so it's likely they enjoy it as well."


With any pet in your bed, the pros come with some cons. Cats are more active at dawn and dusk than other times of the day, according to Animal Humane Society. For some cats, nighttime means playtime, so if your cat loves to play while you're trying to sleep, they might be disruptive. But if your cat has a similar sleep schedule to yours, it will likely bring you comfort to rest next to your feline friend. Cats especially love napping during the day, so they may help you make the most of your midday naps. For people with allergies or asthma, however, sleeping with a pet may not be a good idea, as the dander can make these conditions worse.

A sense of purpose

We all need a reason to get out of bed each morning. Sometimes, that reason is a cat sitting on your head, begging for some food. In all seriousness, caring for a pet gives us motivation to start the day. They are counting on us to take care of them, and when we feel needed, it makes us want to take better care of ourselves, too. Bringing a cat into your life will give you a new sense of purpose and responsibility to keep them safe and healthy.


Though cats might be more shy compared to other pets, when you earn their trust, the bond between cat and human is unmatched. Cats each have their own unique personalities and quirks that makes it easy to fall in love with them. Even on a bad day, it's hard to feel alone when surrounded by the unconditional love from your cat.