International Cat Day: 8 health benefits

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” – Ernest Hemingway, American novelist


International Cat Day is celebrated on February 20, with the aim of paying tribute to these pets and promoting an adoption campaign to provide a home for stray animals.


Despite their reputation for being elusive, it is very difficult to resist the natural charm of a cat, whether it is their calmness, their desire to play or their enviable independence.


Origin of this celebration


Socks the cat belonged to the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Since 1993 this feline lived in the White House and used to appear in the president’s public events, reaching great popularity around the world at that time.


Unfortunately Socks was diagnosed with cancer and his owners decided to euthanize him on February 20, 2009. Upon Socks’ death, International Cat Day is commemorated every year in his honor.


8 health benefits of owning a cat


There are several studies that show that having a pet, specifically a cat, is beneficial to our health.


1. Stress reduction

Petting cats reduces cortisol levels (a stress-related hormone). Physical contact with cats also increases in humans the production of certain brain waves, which are usually produced in states of deep relaxation and calm.


2. They inspire positive emotions

A survey of 7,000 people in 2015 indicated that watching cat videos or photographs meant an increase in positive emotions (happiness, hope, etc.) in the person viewing them, as well as an increase in their energy levels.


3. Healing purr

Studies indicate that cats’ purring helps reduce the owner’s stress, as well as their blood pressure. In addition, cats can produce vibrations of between 20 and 140 hertz when purring, a frequency considered beneficial for a variety of illnesses, according to Scientific American magazine.


4. They protect the heart

According to a 2008 study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Stroke Institute, cat owners are less likely to die from a heart attack. After monitoring nearly 4,500 people (three out of five participants owned a cat) over a 10-year period, researchers were able to determine that cat owners experienced a 30% reduced risk of death from heart attack compared to participants who did not own cats.


5. Improve mental health

A 2011 survey of 600 people, half of whom were suffering from a mental health problem at the time, revealed that 87% felt that having a cat had a positive impact on their lives and 75% coped better with everyday life thanks to the company of their cat.


6. Therapeutic effect on people with autism


Children and adults with autism sometimes find it difficult to communicate with others. However, animal therapy has been shown to be a very useful learning tool, as many autistic people feel a very strong connection with animals. A 2012 study in France looked at 40 autistic children and their pets and found that the children felt calmer and could socialize more easily than those without pets. They linked this change to an increased production of oxytocin, a hormone that is generated by petting cats and increases feelings of trust and love.


7. They teach us the importance of strategic decision making

Cats take their time to observe, think and ponder before deciding whether the attraction of the moment is really worth their attention. They also move more carefully when climbing seemingly impossible heights and find a safe way to get down from there afterwards. They are thoughtful and strategic.


8. They help fight depression

The companionship of cats has been shown to improve mood and serve as a positive distraction for those struggling with depression. Beyond their companionship, pets help keep us on a routine, maintain accountability and social activity on days when we would have a harder time doing so. While all pets can help us overcome depression, cats are especially calm and peaceful, and these characteristics can be inspirational engines for their owners.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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