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14. HEALTH BENEFITS OF KEEPING CATS

 

Keeping a  companion animal such as a cat or a dog, has been proven in studies to be a benefit to those suffering with health problems. Following research on the benefits of animal company, charities have arisen such as P.A.T. (Pets As Therapy). Great Ormond street childrens hospital receives P.A.T. animal visits. The positive interaction, contact & company of the animals actively improves emotional, and as a result physical, conditions for patients. Keeping cats has also been found to be a great benefit to people suffering from bereavement, depression & other debilitating conditions. The company, attention and humour that our furry friends inject into day to day life can be invigorating therapy. The responsibility of successfully caring for, helping/rescueing & protecting a completely dependent creature, can also introduce a strong and positive sense of responsibility, confidence & pride.

Cats are good for you

Scientific studies show that owning a pet is beneficial. Dr McNicholas found that the company of a pet actively benefited the bereaved. Pets provide an impartial ear to air emotions. Bereavement sufferers endured fewer physical symptoms over a three-month period, with the company of a pet.
 
Evidence highlighted pets can reduce stress and high blood pressure. Research also indicated that the company of animals increases the chances of recovery after life-threatening illness. Pet owners tended to use medical services less, and evidence suggests that the presence of a pet can improve children’s immune systems.
 

Cats & children

Living with a cat or dog in the first years of life appears to reduce incidences of hay fever and asthma. These children are unlikely to suffer from animal-related allergies, as they will have become accustomed to and familiarised with the presence of animals. Children who have been exposed to animals were also found to be better equipped to fight off illnesses. These findings have led to the appearance of organisations promoting human animal companionship. SCAS (www.scas.org.uk) is a charity that was formed by health professionals, social workers, and vets in 1979.

 
In the elderly, SCAS research found that companion animals provided social interaction and encouraged activity. They provided an outlet for nurture and eased loneliness or loss. Services were subsequently set up to support those in need.
 
CHATA (http://chata.org.uk/) is a children’s charity working with hospitals, delivering animals to children’s wards for beneficial therapy. This can provide seriously ill children with the opportunity to release their feelings and connect with the outside world. It provides a sense of responsibility (of carer rather than cared for) and can also increase the attention span for those with learning difficulties. Chata found that children who’d had contact with animals required less pain relief after surgery.
 
PAT (www.petsastherapy.org) was founded in 1983 to provide therapeutic animal visits to hospitals, hospices and care homes. There are many companion animals at work, bringing therapeutic joy to the weak and the weary.

 

Browse examples of the benefits of cats in happy endings.

 

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