We all know that petting cats is healthy for humans, both lowering blood pressure, and relieving stress; but a new study released this month in the journal “Preventive Veterinary Medicine” proves that cuddling cats is a health booster for our feline friends, as well.
Authored by animal welfare consultant, Nadine Gourkow, and Clive J.C. Phillips, a University of Queensland professor of animal welfare, the study took place over the course of 10 days, focusing on 96 healthy, well-adjusted, content felines.
Divided into two groups – positive interaction and control – the cats were exposed to different stimuli during the study, with the positive group receiving positive interaction with the same person four times a day, for ten minutes each time.
The cats in the control group, on the other hand, were subjected to a researcher, eyes averted, standing in front of their cage for the same amount of time each day.
The results? The cats in the positive interaction group, who were handled lovingly, retained the content dispositions they began with. The cats in the control group, however, were more disgruntled, unhappy, and unwell. Literally.
Of the 49 cats in the control group, 17 of them developed upper respiratory disorders; whereas only nine of the 47 cats in the positive interaction group developed such disorders. Gourkow told The Huffington Post that she discovered a “strong association between positive emotions induced by gentling and good health.”
Based on their findings, Gourkow and Phillips were able to determine that a cat’s contentment stimulates the production of an antibody that fights upper respiratory disorders. In other words: content kitties mean healthy kitties!
“We have learned that the domestic cat is very responsive to good treatment by humans,” said Phillips. “However, the study has emphasized to me how sensitive pets are, including my dog, to gentle treatment.”
The most effective gentling method for animals? That’s next on the study agenda for Gourkow and Phillips. Until then, Gourkow is in the process of building a website that instructs shelters on how to implement her findings and keep felines in good health and spirits, maximizing their opportunity for adoption!