By Kathy Blumenstock
Do we really need a reason to love cats? Much like justifying that overpriced, oversized coffee drink, or a day spent binge-watching the latest guilty pleasure, loving our feline friends is a natural, feel-good experience. But if you’re interrogated under oath, or confronted by one of those quirky job interview questions, you can find countless factual and fun reasons for loving cats.
We asked feline behaviorist Rita Reimers, aka The Cat Analyst, and Dr. Carlo Siracusa, clinical assistant professor of animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, for their thoughts. Here’s a handy 411 guide on loving your dear tabby.
“Cats teach us how to love and respect an individual for who he is, even if we cannot change him,” Siracusa says. Famously independent by nature, cats won’t adjust personality traits just to please their humans, but offer their own special brand of affection and support. “Cats are a discrete and gentle presence in our life,” he says. “They like some fun, but also love silence, quiet, and sometimes even solitude.”
Turning off the cell phone, shutting down the work emails circling your brain, lavender-scented pillows—those may help you settle down for the night, but the presence of a cat is an instant fix in transporting you to dreamland. “You have a built-in sleep aid when you have a cat in the house who can purr you a lullaby as you drift off to sleep,” Reimers says. Unlike any other sound, the thrum of a steady purr calms us, bringing the same reassurance a mama cat provides to the newborn kittens who rely on her purring to tell them they’re safe, warm, and loved. Even a white noise app can’t do that.
If you love cats, you spend on cats. Treats, toys, food, litter, vet care, holiday attire; from the necessities to the fun impulse buys, you’re fueling the country’s economic engine with every feline-related purchase. In fact, the American Pet Products Association projects that Americans will have spent a total of $69.36 billion on their pets in 2017. A product labeled “Cats Love It!” triggers an automatic reach for the debit card. By investing in your cat, you’re helping the country’s retail empire hum, and no matter the cost, your cat’s affectionate kneading is better than any cash-back coupon.
Leonardo da Vinci reminded us that “The smallest feline is a masterpiece,” and Siracusa agrees. “Cats allow us the luxury of bringing a marvelous piece of nature into our homes.” Sleek or fluffy, in every breed and every coloration, cats possess unique charm and appeal, whether gazing with clarity into darkness, powering up that purr machine, or communicating their moods with a flick of a tail. They also remind us of their relatives, the fascinating and awe-inspiring jungle critters so endangered by today’s world. “Domestic cats are very similar to their wild ancestors,” Siracusa says. “And they are always beautiful, even when they get older!”
Even as the days grow shorter, colder, and darker, your dog pays no attention, still needing those daily forays at inconvenient times. Piles of leaves, snowdrifts, and sheets of rain all serve as a backdrop for loving dog parents who must accompany their beloved pooch for exercise and other “business.” Reimers, who shares her home with multiple felines, rejoices that “cats don’t need to be walked, which is especially great when the weather outside is frightful.” If yours is a multi-pet home, look up at the windows when you’re taking Fido out during the 11 p.m. news. There’s a cat on the windowsill, wearing a smug expression.
No honor student to brag about during coffee breaks? No vacation pics from Machu Picchu? Your cat, and cats in general, provide endless lighthearted chit cat for all occasions. Think of all the cats who now rule social media, populating every thread with adorable, snarky, or heart-melting images and stories. And your own cat is busy even now doing something irresistibly cute that must be shared, in words and pictures, many pictures. Surrounded by sourpusses who proudly declare “I HATE cats”? Cats can even provide comebacks for the haters—but that’s another story!
Every cat parent feels it, even if we may not put it into words. But both Reimers and Siracusa agree that cat love is a boost to our well-being. “Petting your cat releases those ‘feel good’ oxytocin chemicals,” Reimers says. Siracusa adds that “cats really are good for our health. Interacting with them lowers our blood pressure and simply keeps us happy.” Owning a cat will drop stress and anxiety levels, Reimers says. That happy furry presence, lightly snaking a tail around our legs or curling into our laps while we read a novel, brings comfort and calm into our too-busy lives. Those decreased anxiety and stress levels reduce the risk of heart attack, Reimers reminds us.
And any heart that loves a cat is one that’s warm and healthy indeed.