Many people are concerned about various diseases they might catch from their pets. While there are not that many zoonotic diseases - that's the term for the ones that can actually pass from animals to humans - it is always a good idea to be informed.
However, did you know that keeping pets actually carries some significant health benefits? In recent years, researchers have been able to show us that pets, and specifically cats, are not just companions. They are also healers. Here is a short review of some of the health benefits your cat provides you with.
1. Cats lower stress levels
We don't really need research to tell us that, do we? Any cat lover that takes the time to spend a few minutes with his or her cat, just petting and feeling that purr, can feel the effect right away. It's the ailurophile's version of "stopping to smell the flowers".
Interestingly, research shows that cats can help fight depression: Owning a cat can distinctly help alleviate negative feelings. In fact, according to one study published, cats had the same positive effect on a person as the presence of a spouse. In other words, why get married when you can get a cat?
2. Cats lower the risk for heart attacks and stroke
Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Research Center showed that cat owners are at a considerably lower risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. A large-scale study showed that people without cats had a 40 percent greater risk of death due to heart attack and a 30 percent higher risk of death caused by any sort of cardiovascular disease.
Nobody knows for sure why cats have that effect on our cardiovascular systems. Very possibly, the lowered blood pressure and the reduced stress have something to do with the results.
3. Cats' Purr Helps Strengthen Bones
Recent research shows that the sound of a cat's purr is conducive to bone growth. Scientists are looking into using the same frequencies and vibrations in healing or halting osteoporosis, as well as in treating bone fractures. You don't have to wait for the results to enjoy your cat's sweet mellow purr.
4. Cats Help Children Develop Resistance to Asthma
Research shows that living with a cat actually helps build a child's immune system. Some children develop a healthy resistance to asthma following significant exposure to cats. The child's ability, or lack thereof, to develop that immunity has been linked to the mother's history of cat allergies.
You may want to get more specific information from your doctor regarding your own family. Still, if you're worried about the health implications of the interaction between a cat and a baby - odds are they are highly beneficial. Another good reason to keep the cat when planning a baby.
Cat Cures in History
We'll end with some anecdotal cures attributed to cats in history. These fascinating tidbits are from the book Planet Cat. Consider them nothing more than cat lore, and as the cat authors suggest... do not try this at home.
During the Middle Ages people believed that stroking the tail of a black cat would cure a sty on the eyelid. They also thought that fever could be cured by wearing a pouch containing the dung of a female cat and the claw of an owl.
Oh, and a health warning for those less kind to felines: Medieval lore also teaches us that if you kick a cat, you will develop rheumatism in that leg.
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