Most of us would love to have less stress in our lives and we spend a lot of time and energy trying to achieve that. But the fix could be easier than we thought, because research shows having a cat can reduce stress, as well as reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack by a third.
A 2009 study looked at data from 4,000 people between the ages of 30 and 75 for a 10-year period. About half were current or former cat owners and the other half never had a feline. Researchers found cat owners, overall, had a 30% lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke compared to people who didn't own a cat, even when accounting for lifestyle factors like smoking, diabetes, heart health, and cholesterol levels.
So what’s so great about owning a cat? The study’s lead researcher says he and his team were surprised by their findings as well, but say “the logical explanation” is that being a cat owner eases stress and anxiety, which then lowers their risk of heart disease. Petting the cat could help cut stress hormones and being connected to the pet can help cat owners cope with stress and not feel so lonely.
But if you’re totally not a cat person and just never will be, there’s all kinds of research showing similar benefits to having and interacting with a dog. A 2017 study also found that owning a dog is linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. So either way, having a pet cat or a dog is good for your health.