How Being a Cat Parent Improves Your Health: Top 5 Benefits

Being a cat parent helps keep the doctor away! Here are five ways how sharing your life with a feline friend can improve your health and well-being — physically and mentally.

Cats are cute and cuddly companions — but they also offer their human companions numerous health benefits. From reducing stress to lowering blood pressure, sharing your life and home with a cat can positively impact your physical and mental well-being. Let’s explore the top five health benefits of living with cats, and why our furry felines are much more than just “pets”.

1. CATS REDUCE YOUR STRESS LEVELS

Cats are known to have a calming effect on their people, and can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Just spending time with a cat, petting him and listening to him purr, can lower your blood pressure and elevate your mood. Research from Cornell University has shown that petting a cat can lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate due to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and increases feelings of relaxation. In addition, simply watching a cat’s movements and playful behavior has been linked to reduced anxiety. It was also discovered that petting cats for ten minutes decreased the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in saliva.

2. CATS HELP IMPROVE YOUR HEART HEALTH

Many studies indicate that having a cat can lower your risk of heart disease. The purring sound made by cats is believed to have a therapeutic effect on the human body and is known to help reduce anxiety, a leading cause of heart problems.

  • In a statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), a range of studies have found an association between being an animal parent and having lower blood pressure. “[There’s a] relationship between pet (primarily dog or cat) ownership and cardiovascular disease, with many reporting beneficial effects, including increased physical activity, favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improved autonomic tone, diminished sympathetic responses to stress, and improved survival after an acute coronary syndrome,” states one of the studies. As well, people with cats were shown to have significantly lower resting baseline heart rates and blood pressure in response to stress.
  • According to the Cleveland Heart Lab, researchers from the University of Minnesota started following 4,500 men and woman who were free of heart problems at the start of a 20-year study. “It showed that people who had never shared their lives with a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had cats at some time in their lives,” said the researchers. This is a statistic we should all be talking about.

3. CATS HELP ALLEVIATE ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES (YES, REALLY!)

You might think the opposite is true, but living with cats actually helps boost immunity. Exposure to cats and their natural environment may strengthen your immune system and protect you from allergies and diseases.

“Research has demonstrated the positive impact of early childhood exposure to cats on the development of asthma and allergies later in life,” says the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). “A birth cohort study enrolling over 700 newborn participants found that, after an 18-year follow-up, those with an indoor cat in the first year of life had nearly half the risk of developing allergies to cats later in life.”

4. CATS COMBAT LONELINESS

Cats make great companions, especially for those living alone or recovering from an illness. They offer emotional support and help relieve loneliness.

  • The Surgeon General states that loneliness is an epidemic in the US: “Loneliness is more than just a bad feeling. When people are socially disconnected, their risk of anxiety and depression increases. So does their risk of heart disease (29%), dementia (50%), and stroke (32%).”
  • HABRI adds that a study of high school students aged 13 to 19 found that those who had companion animals, including cats, were significantly less likely to feel lonely than their peers without animals.
  • Human-animal interaction has also been shown to reduce feelings of depression in older adults. Living with cats also tends to decrease the number of aging-related health issues. AARP’s national poll on healthy aging states: “Those benefits seem to be even more pronounced for older adults who live alone or struggle with their health, 72% of whom say pets help them cope with physical or emotional symptoms.”

5. CATS STRENGTHEN OUR COPING SKILLS

Coping skills are strategies used to navigate difficult situations and feelings. When we start to experience negative feelings, animals such as cats can help us develop skills similar to meditation to help us get through the situation. Cats provide us with positive daily distractions, a regular routine, and purpose.

WHAT THE STATS SAY

Approximately 43 million American households include a pet cat, with many households owning more than one, making them the second most popular pet by household, behind dogs,” says HABRI.

In their 2021 survey, HABRI found that companion animals in general lead to improvements in both personal and mental human health:

  • 76% of respondents reported that their personal health improved as a result of having an animal, up from 71% in 2016 (+5%).
  • 87% said they experienced mental health improvements from animal guardianship, up from 74% in 2016 (+13%).

Living with animals may even help decrease healthcare costs and doctor visits. Another recent study by HABRI and Banfield found that those with companion animals are estimated to visit the doctor less than those without animals, producing a cost savings of $11 billion.

Being a cat parent is a low-stress commitment that provides you with love and companionship — as well as improved physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.


Christine Caplan is a Certified Vet Tech, and a long-time PR veteran and content marketing expert who brings her unique understanding of social and digital media to connect dog lovers to brands both on and offline. She lives with three hounds – two “doxies” and a beagle/basset hound mix – who constantly teach her about life and companionship (mylifewithdogspdx.com).


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