It is well known that having a cat as a pet can work wonders for reducing a person’s stress levels. There’s nothing like the slow, gentle action of stroking a cat on your lap and listening to it gently purring in appreciative response, to calm the mind and reduce the blood pressure. Conscious of what a tremendous therapeutic effect animals can have on people, carers sometimes bring them into a hospital setting precisely for this purpose.
A cat can work wonders: it can reduce blood pressure and it can provide friendship and comfort for people who live on their own, particularly when they are elderly or infirm and are rarely able to go out.
Q. My mother has decided not to go into sheltered housing because she can’t take her cat there. She says he’s better at keeping her calm than valium. Is she talking nonsense?
No, she’s probably quite right. And if that’s the way she feels, it would not be advisable to make her move without her cat, as this might make her nervy and unhappy. Try to find another arrangement that will accommodate her cat.
Q. I haven’t been well recently and my husband says we should get rid of the cat because he is more work. But I feel that he helps keep me sane. Is this stupid?
No, not at all. Your husband should realise that looking after people isn’t only a matter of making them well, but also of making them content and happy, and an animal can play a large part in this process as your experience shows.
Stroking your cat as it purrs contentedly on your lap is clearly pleasurable for the cat, and, as most cat owners will verify, also for you.
CALMING EFFECT OF CATS
According to recent research, your relationship with your cat may also provide you with a lot more than mere pleasure – it can also have an enormously calming and relaxing effect. Recent medical research has shown that the effect of owning a pet can be so remarkable that it can actually help to reduce a person’s blood pressure. As a result, some hospitals, hospices and homes for the elderly now recognise the therapeutic value of animals.
Establishing a relationship with a cat can be a valuable step in a person’s ability to express their feelings again after a serious illness, which can be beneficial in a patient’s recuperative process. Many elderly people, in particular, and those who are mentally ill, can be lonely – in which case a cat can provide them with much-needed companionship and will probably do a great deal to cheer them up.
CATS HELP IN BEATING DEPRESSION
Elderly or unwell people who go out rarely and therefore seldom talk to other people may find that they become withdrawn. This can eventually lead on to severe depression. A cat can help such individuals come out of themselves again by responding to another living being and this, in turn, can help them rediscover some of the hitherto forgotten joys of life.
Some people find that their cats help them relax and settle down for the night without having to resort to sleeping pills, and this is obviously a much better solution to an age-old problem.
Owning a cat can also be good for your mental health. For those people who are deeply scarred by human relations, a cat can give them affectionate companionship without the complexity and contradictions of human bonds. In time, a cat may even come to encourage such people to try again with human relationships.
For those cat owners who work from home, a cat can be a very convenient stress-beater.