I have a cat named Mufasa. He is orange, huge, and hilarious; his name means nothing in Kiswahili, unlike Simba, Pumba, Rafiki. He has an infinite number of meows – one for the big hornbills that sit in a tree outside our window; one for the lone cat downstairs; one for 5 am hunger; one for 2am loneliness; one for when nobody is listening to the dramatic saga of his sleepy day. He sits on my keyboard in the morning when I am writing; he sits on me when I’m lying still enough, and I love him.
Others – you know who you are – seem to think that cats are useless, nothing compared to dogs and other useful pets one might have the pleasure of owning. Because, it is true, cats are seemingly haughty creatures, prone to clawing your legs, taking your yarn – if you’re that kind of person – and waking you up in the middle of the night.
However, Mufasa is always a warm creature for me to hug, always willing to purr in my ear. And I think this is significant. Many studies prove that time spent around animals, passive or direct, can decrease stress and improve your physical health.
Studies done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) state that pet owners have “lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than their non-pet owning counterparts” (Ventura). Isn’t that great? Just having a pet around reduces your blood pressure. Also, another study proved that “cat owners are 30% less likely to have a heart attack” (Ventura). I mean, I am all for that. There is evidence procured in one study that “pet owners [have] greater self-esteem, greater levels of exercise and physical fitness.” They also “[tend] to be less lonely than nonowners” (McConnell 1243). Not only does the attachment with one’s pet decrease stress, decrease fear, and others, “pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them” (McConnell 1250). Therefore, having a pet effects positively your relationship with others.
These facts, and many more, prove that having a pet around is beneficial to your social, physiological, and mental health. Therefore, maybe I’ll keep my cat around primarily for the fact that he reduces my risk of heart attack – just kidding, Mufasa, I love you even without your benefits.