Unexpected Benefits of Cats as Pets for Older Adults
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: there are two kinds of people in this world; cat lovers and dog lovers. And, indeed, what’s not to love about dogs? They are ferociously loyal, they love unconditionally, and in the darkest hours, they will pay their way into our laps and wag our tears away. Affectionate, loving, caring, and downright goofy, dogs simply take the “man’s best friend” title by existing. Then, we have cats, the independent and often quieter version of the forever two-year-old trapped in canine bodies. Depending on the breed, their versatile nature can go anywhere from being very vocal about their independence and territory to being a big, cuddly, mushy ball of fur. Just like dogs, cats can give limitless affection and unconditional love – if we let them in. Here are all the benefits of cats as pets for older adults.
Why say yes to cats
Because we’re wiser now. And we think ahead. Unlike dog ownership, cat ownership comes with myriad unexpected benefits. Let’s elaborate. Getting old(er) has its perks; we care less about what other people might think, we wave our shyness goodbye, and finally give ourselves permission to live fully and unapologetically. On the downside, our bodies aren’t what they used to be; the risk of reduced mobility, fractures, high blood pressure, forgetfulness, and other potential hindrances become part of our daily life. Now that we’re older, more beautiful, and wiser, feline companionship simply makes more sense. Growing old with style, cat ladies and cat gentlemen.
Benefits of feline companionship
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), owning or adopting a cat offers multiple benefits:
- improves cognitive function in elderly
- opportunity for physical activities
- lowers cholesterol levels
- decreases blood pressure
- controls triglyceride levels
- improves social skills
- reduces feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety
Cats help us practice mindfulness
So, how do we define mindfulness, and why is it so important? Mindfulness is no new age philosophy; it’s the cornerstone, the very essence of our well-being. So, when we practice mindfulness, we are actually living in the moment; we are fully present and fully aware of our body, thoughts, feelings, sensations, as well as external stimuli (i.e., environment) but without being consumed with feelings of overwhelm. So, where do cats fit in the “mindfulness” picture? Unlike our intricate existentialism-driven minds, living “here and now” is an innate feline behavior. They don’t sit ruminating on transience and past wounds, nor do they worry about what the future might bring. Something as “silly” and “simple” as cuddling and playing with our pets can actually teach us an invaluable lesson – learning how to enjoy the present moment. For the ones who have a tendency to indulge in downward spirals, worry not; your cat will teach you how to nip it in the bud.
“I need you”
Speaking of the benefits of cats as pets for older adults, without purpose and having someone (or something!) to look after, our sense of joy can slowly start fading away. And it’s a tough place to be. The truth is that human beings need to feel needed (and we love it, too). No matter our age, we are only the best versions of ourselves when we’re responsible for someone else’s well-being. To nurture another living being is a privilege and an honor. Caring for a cat can give our lives purpose, as it also helps with establishing a routine and adding overall structure to our “retiree” lifestyle. The best thing about it? The “I need you” part is reciprocal.
Cats help us embrace change
Change is the only known constant in life. Youth thrives on change, and it welcomes it wholeheartedly. However, the older we get, the more resistance we put up against impending novelties (and that’s perfectly fine because we know what we want and what we’re comfortable with). Yet again, change is inevitable. And the more alone we are, the more we will dread the mere idea of it (even if we’re the ones initiating the change). Not if we have cats, though. After retiring, many decide to move house and revitalize their newly found freedom. Some would say, “Seniors and moving don’t go together well,” and we say, “How dare you?” It is a big step, though. So, if we want to keep stress at a minimum, getting a cat might be a good idea. They are fearless, independent, and one of the most loving, supportive roommates one can find.
Cats each day keeps the doctor away
Cats are known for their healing powers. In fact, studies have found that around 70% of older adults said their pet cat helps them take their minds off of physical and emotional pain and alleviate existing symptoms. Additionally, we are looking at less downtime when recovering from surgery or other interventions. How come? Animals—dogs and cats, to be precise—have a way of shifting our mood board from “-” to a big “+”. Our recovery rides on our ability to see the bright side of things, and cats are natural when it comes to persuading. Lastly, they help us stay in shape. Granted, they are not dogs, and 20-minute walks aren’t a thing when you’re enjoying feline companionship. All the same, cats love to play (alone or with us). Celebrate the holidays together by getting them a new toy.
Best cat breeds for older adults
If you are unsure what cat will suit you the most, here are some cat breeds that are considered to be the most suitable for older adults:
- Russian Blue
- British Shorthair
- American Shorthair
- Australian Mist
The benefits of cats as pets for older adults are simply innumerable. They will keep us company and ward off our aches, bad moods, and slumberless nights. They will purr, knead, and play the intricate game of mimicry, as their favorite afternoon role will be to enjoy imitating an elegant scarf around our neck as we sip on some fine wine. And life will be good. For the rest of our days.