Cats rule the Internet and have their own Internet Cat Video Festival the third of which launches on August 14th at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Dear dogs, I love you...but cats rule me too. Wondering why? They have special healing qualities that go beyond what any pet offers. Call it purrfect kitty vibrations.
I've suspected for some time now that when my cats lay on me and purr they're providing healing. I believe they're healing me and, much like the power of positive thinking or the effect of a placebo, it's been hard to tell whether their purrs or my mind were creating the effect. So, I was quite surprised to discover scientific correlations between the frequency of a purr and real benefits to cats and their owners.
"Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing," wrote Assistant professor of veterinary medicine Leslie Lyons for Scientific American in 2006. Dr Jacob Teitelbaum, an internist specializing in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, echoed her assertion citing a 10 year Canadian study showing a correlation between cat owners and significantly reduced heart attack and stoke danger. Author, Liz Eastwood adds it all up in her blog stating that cats help us to meditate, lower stress, heal wounds and bones, ease joint pain, relieve shortness of breath, lower incidence of lymphoma, and extend our lifetime. "If pet ownership was a medication, it would be patented tomorrow,' says Dr. Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic, in a blog about the therapeutic benefits of pets in our advanced years.
Cats have special therapeutic resources yet all pets offer unique benefit to man. Dogs help with exercise and are known to save not only their owner or family members but also strangers and other animals in distress. Valorous dogs accompany people who aren't sighted and serve on police forces and in the military. Recent studies show that the fine olfactory sense of dogs may even help us detect early signs of cancer. Though dogs are often used as therapy animals for nursing homes and hospitals all animals offer benefit and can be trained to be licensed as Animal Assistant Therapists or to qualify as partners in Animal-Assisted Activities such as fastening a leash on and off as exercise. Mental health conditions such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and schizophrenia can be improved by all animals: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, fish and birds. They help us laugh and reflect our feelings.
Pets are unique in providing grounding and comfort that reaches people in all stages of dementia. Their non threatening and unconditional love is easy to access, uncomplicated and sincere. In addition to support for mental and physical health, animals increase social engagement and communication which keeps the mind active and lessens isolation. Pets grace assisted living and Alzheimer's care hallways and are giving rise to a new job description: Pet coordinator. Silverado, a national dementia care community, encourages residents to bring pets and, internally, maintains an onsite ratio of pets to patients because of their healing value. In this youtube video Silverado CEO and Co-Founder Loren Shook discusses why pet therapy was integrated in their care model. He cites: lowered blood pressure, ease of anxiety, added purpose, a 24/7 companion, inspiration to move, practice in non verbal communication, and extended lifetimes. Not even a loving family member, caregiver, or health professional can do all that!
If you're close to a pet already you know that you share your life with a valuable and loveable companion. If you don't have a pet in your life--consider it. Let a cat rule you or dote on a dog. A pet is more than a great companion. Pets are purrveyors of the healing arts-- 4 footed therapists that ask only for kibbles and love.
Update October 2014 The purriodical table of cats.