Study Finds Cat Owners Have Lower Stroke Risk

Posted on March 7, 2008

As cat owners we can appreciate this new study. ABC News is reporting on an interesting study that found cat owners have a lower stroke and heart disease risk than non-cat owners.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Research Center looked at 4,435 people, aged 30 to 75 years, who were participating in ongoing national government health research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study.

They found that over a 20-year period, those who had never owned a cat had a 40 percent greater risk of death due to heart attack and a 30 percent higher risk of death due to any sort of cardiovascular disease than previous or current cat owners. Researchers found no such protective effects for dog owners.

There are going to be many cat owners who believe this study is true because lap cats do provide a very calming influence. People will often fall asleep with a cat in their lap. There very well may be something to the research but studies aren't perfect and there are many factors that simply cannot be tested. For example, it is possible that the heart benefits have more to do with the kind of people that become "cat people" than it does with the stress reduction benefit that cats provide directly. Lead study investigator Dr. Adnan Qureshi said this could be a possibility.
"Maybe cat owners tend not to have high-stress personalities, or they are just the type of people that are not highly affected by anxiety or high-stress situations," Qureshi said.

There is also the possibility that owning a cat gives a person responsibility and a "reason to live." A person might try to take better care of themselves and live longer so they are there for their beloved pet.

"I have heard an owner with a chronic, debilitating illness say that her cat gives her a reason to get up each day," said Marla McGeorge, veterinarian at The Cat Doctor in Portland, Ore.

It is also possible that the researchers are really on to something here and the stress release and anxiety reduction that cats provide does give cat owners a hearty healthy boost.

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