Are Cats More Beneficial to Our Health than Dogs?Published June 30, 2009
Hey there, all you pet lovers out in cyberspace! While pet "pawrents" are keenly aware about the health benefits received from sharing our homes and hearts with pets, the University of Minnesota Stroke Research Center has been doing a bang up job to scientifically prove what has been heretofore mostly anecdotal in nature. Interestingly, what they are learning is the feline species may be even more helpful in health benefits than their canine counterparts. There has been a lot of evidence already demonstrated that owning a dog can promote better health by decreasing blood pressure, and giving a boost to the chemical balance in our brains which help us derive pleasure in that special relationship between dog and human. However, finally through a study of 4, 435 people, followed for ten years, the potential medical benefit of being owned by cats is being actively purrsued. They have so far found that cats apparently are more helpful. They have learned that "People without cats, or who never had cats, had a 40 percent greater risk to die of a heart attack and a 30 percent greater risk to die of any cardiovascular related disease. The study showed no such protective benefits for dog owners" The lead investigator and executive director of the Minneapolis, Minnesota based Stoke Center, Dr. Adnan-Qureshi reports, "We know that stress and anxiety are factors leading to cardiac disease. If a pet can ameliorate stress and anxiety, clearly having a pet is beneficial. In the past, studies have considered dogs but never cats. This is only one study, but it's a start." While Dr. Qureshi cannot explain why his study, which unlike others, was not able to show any protective value in owning a dog, he says, "Perhaps petting a cat is even more helpful than we thought." The mystery remains why folks are benefitted by petting a dog. Perhaps it is from the tail-wag response we receive, a canine feedback that is pleasurable to us which can be considered therapeutic. But dogs cannot give us that auditory pleasure we receive from felines . . . that very soothing sound . . . the purr. This study is delving into the "intrinsic medical value not yet discovered." Dr, Edward Creagan, past president and consultant in medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says, "We never even considered studying benefits of cats as a part of the equation because they're considered aloof, and takers and not givers. Of course, these misconceptions and biases aren't true about cats." An owner of two cats himself, Dr. Creagan continues, "We've never really looked at what cats are capable of. This is what preconceived notions will do. It wouldn't surprise me if we learn that cats have equal healthful values to people as dogs." Since cats not only purr as a sign of contentment, but often purr when in pain or close to death, which is considered to be a form of self-soothing, is it possible that humans respond to the purring of a cat in a similar manner? Dr. Qureshi is considering this possibility and remarks, "If cats are able to self-soothe through purring, maybe the purring soothes humans in some way we don't understand." I am looking forward to reading more about this study. If it proves that cats genuinely can contribute to our health and well being, and prevent serious illness, I will of course ask my physician for a prescription. With no nasty side-effects and warnings for this "medication", I wonder if my prescription drug insurance will cover the cost! What health benefits have you become aware of in being owned by a pet? Leave a comment and share. Of course I will use them as back up when I submit my next insurance form.