Do cats make bad pets? For some, they see felines as unfriendly or apathetic to human interaction, noted Jessica Booth of Insider, an American online media company. Others see cats as creatures that love to bite and scratch on furniture. Yikes! The truth is, we need to see cats beyond the aloof companion stereotype. Perhaps the problem lies with us and not the cat itself.
Cat Ownership and the Therapeutic Benefits of Cats
Sarah Zito and colleagues of PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal, collected a convenience sample of self-selected participants who volunteered to answer an online survey between December 16, 2013 and April 23, 2014. The authors classified the human-cat relationship as the following in their 2015 study:
1. Casual interaction
Respondent did not see themselves as the owner of the cat and had interacted with it less than a month and/or had fed it occasionally or not all
Interacted with the cat at least a month or has it frequently or always. Respondents did not see themselves as the owner.
3. Ownership of a passively-acquired cat
Respondent perceived themselves as the owner of the cat and had acquired it passively.
4. Ownership of an actively acquired cat
Active acquisition of the cat.
Many semi-owners exhibited interaction and caretaking behaviors towards their felines, with 47% of semi-owned cats were sterilized. In 58% of cases, semi-owners were responsible for their cats’ sterilization. Meanwhile, interactions and caretaking behaviors were rare for causal interaction cats. Most owners (94%) and slightly half of semi-owners (54%) felt attached to the animal, but only 5% of people who had a casual interaction with the feline felt attached. All interactions and caretaking behaviors were significantly more exhibited towards cats perceived as owned than those who were semi-owned. For example, 90% of owned (passive-acquired) cats were held, stroked, or cuddled each day versus 37% of cats in semi-owned relationships. 91% of passively-acquired cats spent time with their owners each day unlike 44% of semi-owned cats.
Owned cats were more likely to be always provided with a scratching post than semi-owned cats (75% versus 26%). Owned cats also enjoyed a few perks from their owners such as being provided (always) a litter tray (81% versus 21%) and toys (58% versus 19%). Health wise, owned cats were regularly checked by a veterinarian (66% versus 18%), vaccinated (71% versus 25%), or gave a cat deworming medication (73% versus 29%). More owned cats (81%) than semi-owned felines (19%) were microchipped. Nearly all owned cats (99%) were sterilized unlike 71% of semi-owned cats.
In a September 2020 survey by Purina Cat Chow, Purina’s premium cat food, found that becoming a cat owner improved the quality of life of 86% of respondents, cited Cision, a public relations and earned media software company and services provider. Three-fourths of cat parents agreed that society does not understand the advantages of feline ownership, yet 94% agreed that many individuals can benefit from spending time with cats. 94% of pet owners associated dogs with animal-assisted therapy, but only 41% of them associated cats with therapy animals. For cat owners, 72% believed that felines could be effective therapy animals while 60% were interested in learning more about how their feline could potentially improve other people’s lives.
Why Are Cats So Awesome?
1. They’re Attached to Their Owners
Who says cats are not attached to their owners? Research by Kristyn R. Vitale, Alexandra C. Behnke, and Monique A.R. Udell of Current Biology, a bi-weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal analyzed a total of 70 cats, which were put in a room with their owners for two minutes. The cats were left alone for two minutes before the owners came back, debunking the myth of cats being unattached to their pet parents. The authors found that 64% of felines demonstrated a “secure attachment” to their owners. Vitale told TV network NBC, “Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out."
2. Cats Love Human Interaction More Than Meals
Yes, they do! After assessing the cats’ preferences Vitale and her team showed in their 2017 study that cats actually enjoyed interacting with their owners such as petting or playing. They tested pet cats and shelter cats to see if they prefer to interact with humans, food, toys, or scent. Published in Elsevier, a global information analytics business, interacting with food was the second most preferred activity by both pets and shelter cats. While some individuals may joke that cats only care about their pet parents during mealtimes, Vitale and her team’s research says otherwise.
3. They Are Independent and Resilient
Dogs are more ecstatic to meet you than your feline friends, but it does not mean that they are not looking forward to your presence, stated RJ Skinner of CBC, a Canadian federal Crown corporation. The truth is: they don’t need you. Alice Potter and Daniel Simon Mills of PLOS ONE concluded that cats are less dependent than dogs on their owners with regard to safety and security. The authors took cats with their owners, placing them in unusual behaviors to study how the cats behaved. The felines did enjoy their owners’ company; however, they rely less on their owners in the said environment. Your cat still loves you and enjoys your presence. But your furry companion prefers to be a strong, independent feline that can overcome obstacles.
4. Lower Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke
A 2009 study by Adnan I. Qureshi, M.D., and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC observed more than 4,000 individuals, with about half of participants either current or former cat owners or never owned a cat. The researchers wrote that there was a correlation between cat ownership and reduced stress levels. After considering factors like diabetes, heart health, cholesterol levels, and smoking, cat parents had an overall 30% lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke unlike those who did not own a cat. Correlation does not equate to causation, of course. However, Catharine Paddock, Ph.D. of Medical News Today, a site that publishes medical information, said it could be because cats prefer to be petted and require less work than canines.
Cats show their love differently. They may appear aloof and independent but cats also enjoy a session of cuddling with their loving owners.