National Cat Day: benefits of adopting a cat

Many studies have shown that having a cat can calm nerves, lower blood pressure, help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic...

Many studies have shown that having a cat can calm nerves, lower blood pressure, help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic pain, strengthen the immune system and even help you live longer. So why is adopting a cat good for seniors and those with chronic conditions? Let’s take a look today, on National Cat Day!

Why is adopting a cat good for seniors?

Cats are amazing companions for people of all ages. They are great for families with children, busy young professionals, and especially great for seniors. What are the things about cats that make them perfect for seniors? 

  1. Cats are independent. They love to sleep a lot - 12-16 hours a day! Cats provide their own kind of unconditional love and comfort. They are less needy than dogs and respond differently. 
  2. Cats are low maintenance. They don’t mind staying indoors, require little physical exercise (20-30 minutes of playing a day in a small space), For the most part, you only need to provide a litter box, a bowl of food, and a bowl of water for your cat to be content.
  3. Cats give you all of the companionship as a dog or other animal but for lower cost and energy. Dogs need to be walked every few hours and fed specific amounts of food at specific times, cats are much easier to handle.

There are a few things to consider when adopting a cat. For example, the age of the cat. Cats usually live between 13 and 20 years. Adopting a kitten requires a lot more training, adjustments and responsibilities than adopting an older cat. If you plan on adopting a young cat, you must be able to take ownership and responsibility for the animal for 20 years if necessary. Additionally, many older cats will never get adopted - so adopting an older cat is mutually beneficial.

Why is adopting a cat good for your health?

Because petting your cat or dog feels good. It can lower your blood pressure, helps your body release a relaxation hormone, and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone. Petting a cat has long been seen as a form of stress relief – cat ownership could cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by as much one-third.  It is proven that petting an animal can relieve anxiety and even help with depression, and domesticated cats love to be pet. 

Cats are able to pick up on human emotions based on behaviors, vocal cues, and facial expressions. Meaning they are responsive. People with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don't have pets. One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning.  

Cats have been known to detect and predict health problems in extraordinary situations and they provide support and assistance to us. In the setting of a severe illness or prolonged hospitalization, feeling isolated at home or in a nursing home placement, a cat can provide great solace and distraction from unpleasant circumstances.

As we age we tend to live a slower paced lifestyle, and we may spend more time at home. Being older we have the time, experience, and resources to give to others whether they have two or four legs! When you adopt a cat you make them part of your family and open up shelter space for another animal who might desperately need it. There are many cats that will never find homes or be rescued. Saving the life of a cat is one of the most noble things you can do.

What is a therapy cat?

With all of these health benefits cats give, it is no wonder that a therapy cat can be great for someone with chronic conditions. Although 94% of service animals are dogs, cats are also able to be therapy animals! An article from UC Davis Veterinary Medicine reads, “While fewer felines make the cut, cats with an outgoing temperament are as effective as canines. “Cats can form powerful social bonds as strong as dogs and can serve as emotional supports if you earn their affection,” says Dennis. As research on the cat-human bond is exploding, it seems to be in line with Dennis’s views. According to one Australian study, cat owners were happier, more confident, and generally psychologically healthier than those without pets. 

Therapy cats can work wonders on a patient’s emotional well-being. Cats instinctively like to curl up on your lap and purr. This show of contentment naturally brings about joy and helps relieve feelings of sadness, even if you are physically unable to return the favor.

If you know of a senior or anyone who is having difficulty affording veterinary care or food for a pet, be sure to contact your local animal shelter, food bank or veterinary clinic. Most professionals in the animal field understand how important pets are to seniors and people with chronic illness, so they may offer low-cost services and supplies for those in need. 

Do you have your own experience with adopting a pet that contributed to a healthier lifestyle?  Has your pet helped you live with chronic conditions? Join our community group on Facebook, "Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together" to learn together, support one another, and build a healthy future together.