Cats Can Keep Older Adults Healthy

Older adult holding a cat© Budimir Jevtic –

I was happy to hear about a new study showing that living with cats and dogs is good for older adults’ health. But then I read excerpts from the study, and it seems to be mostly about dogs!

How disappointing. It confirmed my suspicions, once again, that although more people share their homes with cats than dogs, we are living in a Black Lab World.

Not that I mind sharing my world with black and yellow labs and other canine friends. But I was disappointed that the study didn’t give equal attention to the health benefits of living with cats.

I’m no spring chicken, and I wanted to know why having all these cats rubbing around my feet and sitting on my lap while I’m trying to type is good for me.

So without benefit of scientific research, I’d like to list just a few reasons why I think cats are good for my health.

  • Like people walking dogs, I get exercise walking with my cats. Okay, so walking with cats isn’t exactly power walking. We have to stop every few minutes and wait for someone to climb a tree or chase a bug. But even strolling is exercise, isn’t it? 
  •  Also like people walking dogs, I socialize with neighbors while I’m walking with my cats. Usually the conversation is limited to, “Are those cats walking with you?” “Well, yes they are. We love to walk together.” Bemused look. End of conversation. But still… conversation is conversation. 
  •  I sleep better with cats on my bed. Katie purrs in my ear, and Muffitt licks my hand until one of us falls asleep. But then, everyone knows cats are way better than sleeping pills. 

I did some research and here are some more ways living with cats improves older adults’ health.

  • The companionship of a cat can help older adults overcome loneliness and depression. 
  • Caring for a cat can give an older person who lives alone a sense of purpose. “Because cats need us to care for them by scooping their boxes, feeding them and giving them fresh water, cats get us up and moving whether we want to or not,” the American Humane Association says on its website. 
  • Cat care also requires a daily routine, something that might be missing in an older adult’s life. 
  • Several studies show that living with cats really does lower blood pressure. 
  • This is interesting: Even people who are allergic to cats tend to become less allergic as they get older. 

The excerpts of the study I read suggested some areas that need further research. One was helping older adults find the resources they need to help them keep their cats and dogs when caring for them becomes difficult. That’s something for rescue groups and shelters with teams of volunteers to think about.

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it might take a village to keep companion animals in their homes and older adults healthy and happy.

Today’s Recommendation
This stand-up scoop makes litter box chores easy.

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