Pet Talk: Benefits of interacting with cats

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We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but have you ever considered interacting with your pet as another way to prevent doctor visits? Many people are experiencing the social and health advantages of interacting with their four-legged friends. The proof is not only evident in happy pet owners’ faces, but also in recent studies.

Professionals and researchers have found specific benefits in cat ownership. For many people, cats offer social companionship without the fear of judgement. Having a cat around can prevent loneliness and depression and even improve your mood in general. Companionship through a cat is especially beneficial to those who live alone or are widowed. Dr. Jonathon Lidbury, assistant professor in the feline internal medicine department at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains the key advantages of owning a cat.

“Cats offer companionship, which is especially beneficial to people who are socially isolated due to various reasons,” he said. “Cats also offer stress relief and light exercise if you play with them.”

Besides social interaction and a reduced risk of suffering from social diseases like depression, cats also offer many health benefits. In fact, the positive emotions you experience from playing or cuddling with your feline can help boost your immune system. Cats can also sense when their owners are sick and often offer them company. This can help you feel better even sooner.

Although it is common to find someone who is allergic to cats, studies show that young children or infants who are exposed to cats often develop fewer allergies. Early and frequent exposure to cats may also prevent future upper respiratory problems in children as well.

For many people, interacting with their cat provides a sense of comfort and relief from everyday stress. Caring for another creature and being sensitive to their needs can help distract cat owners from their daily struggles, worries and negative emotions. By lowering stress levels, cat owners may experience lower blood pressure as well as less anxiety.

Cats are smart and independent animals that are also naturally clean, making them a great choice for a pet. Combined with their many health benefits, the low maintenance aspect of cat ownership creates a great opportunity for companionship.

“Cats offer a great balance between being easy to take care of but at the same time being very good companions,” Lidbury said. “They are playful, intelligent and engaging pets that are very fun to take care of.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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