Popular as dogs are with their devoted owners, there are actually more cat companions in the U.S. than canines – 16 million more, in fact.
And while your kitty won’t encourage you to exercise by begging to go out for a hike, research shows the sound of a cat’s purr can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.
According to USA Today:
“Research shows that being able to care for a pet improves our morale, helps validate us and encourages us to take care of ourselves,” says Rebecca Johnson, director of the University of Missouri's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. The body of research is leading more retirement communities and universities to roll out the welcome mat for pets.
Some parents have discovered the family cat can help teach children the values of compassion and gentleness. Most dogs will allow family members to wrestle with them, chase after them, and roughhouse. In fact, many dogs live for that type of interaction.Cats on the other hand, do not. If a child (or anyone) treats a cat roughly or aggressively, kitty will bolt from the room, putting an end to the interaction between human and pet. So children learn the difference between sturdier, more tolerant pets and those that require careful, gentle handling.
Dr. Dennis Turner, a leading expert on the feline-human bond, explains why he likes cats:
“I appreciate the fact that they’re very sensitive. They are very independent thinkers and independent actors and they’re very elegant and beautiful to watch. I could watch cats for hours.”
Do Humans and Cats Communicate with Each Other?
Dr. Turner has used Information Theory, a complex mathematical system employed in computer science to determine whether two entities are communicating, to prove that kitties and their people transfer information back and forth.
According to Dr. Turner, each feline-human pair has an individual way of communicating, due in part to the wide variety of behaviors cats use to ‘talk’ to their human family.
Some kitties like to rub up against your legs, while others rub their head against yours.
Some cats sit very still while staring at you, others tilt their head in an irresistible questioning gesture.
Many kitties vocalize as a way to communicate. Some scratch the floor or stand on hind legs and reach for you with their front paws.
Some kitties deliver little nibbles to their human’s face or neck.
I even have a client whose big, handsome orange tabby rears up on his hind legs, stretches himself to his full length, and paws at his dad’s rear end as he stands at the kitchen counter preparing the cat’s meal!
Why Felines May Be the Perfect Pets
Dr. Turner’s research shows that unlike dogs, cats follow their owner’s lead when it comes to how much involvement they have with each other.
Some cat owners prefer a lot of interaction with their pet, others don’t have much time to devote or simply prefer less interaction. Kitties are quite adaptable to their humans’ needs in this regard and fall into step easily with the pace the owner sets. They do this without complaint, and their independent self-sufficient nature helps them get along without a need for the same level of interaction their canine counterparts demand.
Even more amazing is Dr. Turner’s discovery that cats seem to understand the need for balance in their relationship with their humans…
“What we found was the more the owner complies with the cats wishes to interact, the more the cat complies with the owners wishes, at other times. They go up together, or they go down together. If the person doesn’t comply with the cats wish to interact then the cat doesn’t comply with the persons’ wishes. It’s a fantastic give and take partnership. It’s a true social relationship between owners and cats,” said Dr. Turner.
Having a Cat Around Makes You Both Feel Better
Dr. Turner’s research has revealed that when a cat interacts with her depressed human, she can discern whether her owner is sad or anxious. She then reacts by increasing her communication signals – perhaps rubbing against the owner more aggressively or meowing loudly.
This strong reaction is obvious to the cat owner. It’s comforting to know a loved one, whether on two legs or four, has noticed you don’t feel well and shows concern for your welfare.
In a Dr. Turner study of couples with cats, it was shown that kitties can alleviate the bad moods of their human owners. This research indicates that while our partners are the ones who make our good moods better, our cats are as capable as our partners are of helping us through feelings of anxiety, depression and fear.
“Both the cat’s presence and their interactions can reduce bad moods. This wasn’t in any sort of clinically ill population or people with psychological problems, this was with average cat owners,” said Dr. Turner.
In a study reported in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in 2007, researchers demonstrated that cats form attachments to their owners similar to the way infants attach to their mothers (or fathers). When their humans were in the room with them, the kitties in the study were more relaxed and willing to explore an unfamiliar environment.
5 More Reasons Cats are Great Pets
- Housebreaking takes about a minute. Just tuck a litter box with clean litter in an out-of-the-way spot in your home, and voila! Fluffy is fully housetrained!
- You don’t have to give up being a clean freak. No need to worry about a dirty, smelly kitty rolling around on your carpet or your furniture. Healthy felines keep themselves clean from head to toe.
- No guilt trips. Unlike your dog, who will drop his tail and look at you with a forlorn expression when you can’t stop what you’re doing to play with him, if you need to put your kitty off for a bit, she’ll wander away, not seeming to mind. You’ll find her later stretched out contentedly in her favorite napping spot.
- Have carrier, will travel. Most kitties don’t relish trips in the car or visits to the vet, but if you have a cat carrier, it’s a whole lot easier to move an unwilling, anxious 12-pound cat than an uncooperative 50- or 60-pound pooch.
- You can stay warm, even in the dead of winter. As most folks owned by cats can attest, there’s nothing that compares to the coziness of a kitty curled up in your lap …or wrapped around your neck … or perched atop your head as you recline in your favorite easy chair …or stretched out down the length of your legs as you fall asleep in bed at night.
If You’re Planning to Add a Feline to the Family...
Please skip the pet stores and backyard breeders.
Visit your local animal shelters and cat rescue organizations to find the perfect new adult cat or kitten for your family. You can also go to Petfinder.com and search available kitties in your area.
Despite their popularity as family pets, only 2 percent to 5 percent of all kitties turned in to shelters are reclaimed by their owners, and over half the cats in shelters never find new families and are euthanized.
There are wonderful, deserving cats of all ages in every city and state waiting patiently for a chance to fit perfectly into a home and family of their own.