By Steven Bancarz| Cats can make great friends and companions. And they’re hilarious. You can laugh endlessly at some of the cat videos on YouTube. They seem to have almost taken over the internet in the last few years, especially with the rise of Grumpy Cat. We tend to think of cats as cute little furry things, often unaware of the fact that cats are some of the most powerful healers out there.
Scientific studies have shown time and time again that cats are more than just good pets. They are extremely therapeutic, and may actually be a good form of medicine for people suffering from heart conditions.
Did you know that owning a cat can reduce your risk of a heart attack? The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis.
After a 10 year follow up period, cat owners showed a 30% lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non cat owners.
This was due to a lower heart rate, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure. Lowering your risk of a heart attack by 30% is no joke. This number gives holistic healers and even heart medications a run for their money.
In addition to the improved heart health, cats also cause a release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the feel-good chemical associated with the feeling of love, and is extremely healing to the body. Serotonin and dopamine are also released in the brain as you are playing with your cat, which reduces stress and puts the body into a harmonious state and stabilizes your immune system.
Studies have also found that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
- While people with dogs often experience the greatest health benefits, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower pulse rate.
Cat purrs (in additions to the actual cat itself) offer further healing power:
According to an article published in Scientific American, cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.
You may find that having a cat on your chest while it purrs feels like a complete regeneration. This is because the frequency of the cats purr is literally healing your cells.
Cats even outperform modern medicine
In a recent study, Dr. Karen Allen, a researcher at the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that stockbrokers with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did their non-pet-owning counterparts.
At the start of the study, the brokers were prescribed the anti-hypertension drug, lisinopril. Half of the participants were randomly selected to also get a dog or cat as a house pet. Six months later, Allen and her colleagues conducted tests in the participants’ homes to measure changes in blood pressure. They found that stress-induced blood pressure continued to rise in the brokers without pets.
The brokers who owned pets also had stress-related rises in blood pressure, but these rises were only half as high as those seen in the petless group. The pet-owning brokers had average systolic pressures (the first number in a blood pressure reading) that fell within the normal healthy range. Stress-related peaks in diastolic pressure (the second number in a reading) were also reduced.
The study, which was posted on the Univerity of Buffalo website and presented at am American Heart Association meeting, concluded that cats control blood pressure better than ACE inhibitors. They are literally more effectively at regulating blood pressure levels than modern medicine.
Even WebMD has noted that:
1) “Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts” if they live with a companion animal.
2) “Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.”
3) People who suffer from high blood pressure, then adopt a cat or dog, navigate stressful situations with lower blood pressure than people who don’t have pets.
4) “Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without.”
A study published in the Frontiers of Psychology found that interacting with animals, such as cats, produced an increased trustworthiness of and trust toward other persons, reduced aggression, enhanced empathy and improved learning. They concluded: “We propose that the activation of the oxytocin system plays a key role in the majority of these reported psychological and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interaction”.
Cats, because of the impact they have on our oxytocin levels, literally make us more empathetic and kind people. I personally find that animals are spiritually healing for me. When you interact with them, they don’t judge you, interrogate you, belittle you, or comment on you. They simply provide you love and affection. Because we know that they aren’t going to judge us, we experience no anxiety when we are around them. In fact, the part of our brain that activates when we are self-conscious or socially anxious is completely relaxed when we interact with animals.
Taking everything into consideration, cats may be one of the best kept secrets in modern medicine. While cats may not be gods like the ancient Egyptians believed, they are a medical wonder, and may be a great way to deal with the stresses of life. From depression, to anxiety, to stress, to physiological healing, they are truly some of the best holistic healers out there.