One question you’ve answered at least once in your lifetime: are you a cat person or a dog person? Which do you prefer? Why? Although liking one over the other may be down to personal preference, owning a cat or dog can actually provide health benefits. Read on to find out more!
Although stereotyped as cold and nonchalant, cats are extremely affectionate and have many ways of showing it. Have you ever experienced a gentle ‘head bump’ from a cat? That’s their way of telling you they like you! Whether they follow you around your house or curl up beside you on the sofa, owning a cat can be incredibly rewarding, especially when you hear their happy purr – an apparent hidden benefit of owning a feline friend. Scientists believe that the frequency (between 25 and 50 Hz) of purring helps relieve stress and can promote bone density and healing, as well has helping to relieve aches and pains associated with anxiety. So the next time a cat cuddles up to you, think of it as free relief.
While independent and happy to roam alone, cats have also been known to be used as therapy animals. Many people have recorded their experiences of having a cat as a therapy pet, whether they’ve helped autistic children, those overcoming alcohol or drug addiction, and even Alzheimer’s patients and those living in care homes.
Owning a cat would best suit those who find getting outside comfortably and easily difficult, as they require little assisted exercise and many enjoy spending their days dozing on laps. As loyal companions they’d be ideal for anyone living alone who is looking for some company, as well as those who are looking for an independent animal they can come home to and look after.
Dogs – man’s best friend…but also man’s best health booster! Scientists have not only concluded that dogs have become evolved over the ages to become attuned to humans in terms of their mood and emotions, but that owning a dog can come with great health benefits. The most obvious factor in owning a dog is exercise – and lots of it! Regular exercise not only helps you lose weight, but lowers blood pressure, decreases your chance of heart disease, increases your mood, eases depression, boosts vitality, and promotes your immune system! Plus, all that walking leads to interaction with other dog owners, widening your friendship circle and improving your social life, giving you increased self-esteem and confidence.
Unlike cats, who can come and go as they please, dogs need routine and structure. A regular exercise and feeding routine makes them happy and more responsive to your instructions, but knowing you need to feed Rover and take him for walkies encourages you to get out of bed and get moving, in turn giving structure to your life.
Owning a dog would benefit someone with spare time on their hands, looking to get outside more and interact with others. Looking after a dog is a huge responsibility so requires someone able to give them the love and attention they need.
However, whether you choose to adopt a cat or a dog, being a pet owner in general can provide health benefits. The companionship which comes with owning a pet can help prevent depression, especially if you regularly talk to your animal, as many pet owners do. Stroking and petting an animal increases your levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, the hormones which make you feel happy, calm and relaxed. Furthermore, the action of stroking provides sensory relief, helping reduce your levels of stress. But, most important of all, animals can provide a joy in your life you may feel is missing, boosting your morale, optimism and sense of self-worth.
If you’d like to find out more about adopting an animal visit rspca.org.uk.