There are almost as many ways to describe cats as there are cats themselves. From aloof and spooky to cuddly and clever, cats over the centuries have been both demonized and adored by humans. However, there are some real ways cats benefit humans. Here are a few:
1. Cats control pests.
Possibly the oldest known benefit of cat ownership is pest control. When people first began to depart from their nomadic life and settle down, they also began to farm. Stored crops tended to attract some unwanted visitors, such as disease-carrying rats and mice, and wild felines in search of an easy meal soon found themselves drawn to human communities where rodents were abundant. People quickly learned that having a cat or two around the farm was a great way to keep pests (and their associated illnesses) at bay, and an alliance was formed.
Over the centuries, cats have worked their way into our homes and our hearts, and they continue to be one of our most sustainable, reliable, and non-toxic forms of vermin control.
2. Cats reduce stress.
As anyone who’s ever cuddled a warm and friendly cat can tell you, cats help reduce stress. The simple act of petting a cat slows our heart rate, lowers our blood pressure, and generally helps promote feelings of relaxation. Interacting with an affectionate feline actually helps our bodies secrete oxytocin—a hormone associated with feelings of safety, love, and trust.
3. Cats boost immunity.
Another benefit of cat ownership concerns the human immune system. People who own indoor-outdoor cats seem less susceptible to common illnesses. This is thought to be because interaction with our pets familiarizes our bodies with various microorganisms, pollens, and molds from the outside world, but in quantities small enough for our immune systems to develop antibodies against those that are potentially harmful. Kids who grow up in a home with cats also show less likelihood to develop allergies later in life.
4. Cats improve mood.
Cats have a well-earned reputation for providing comfort. They’re warm, fluffy, cuddly and loving, and their purring has a wonderfully soothing and restorative effect on our mood. When we are grieving or ill, our cats seem to seek us out and stay nearby until we feel better. Cats are sometimes even used as therapy animals to help residents of long-term care facilities boost morale and stay engaged with the world around them.
5. Cats help kids develop empathy.
Learning empathy for other living creatures is an essential part of being human. Children who grow up around cats (and dogs too) have a great head start in learning about what it means to care about others. Having a cat teaches children responsibility and nurturing, and the importance of caring for others—all of which are answered with unconditional love from their feline companions.
Cats may seem independent and aloof, and they certainly know a thing or two about setting boundaries when they dislike something—but cats also need our care and support to thrive. And in return, they have a positive impact on human health and wellness.
Editor’s Note: Over 3 million cats are living in US shelters. If you are considering pet adoption, here are some additional reasons why make cats ideal pets for you and your family.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.