15 Ways Your Cat Is Endangering — and Enriching — Your Health

Your house cat makes your home an even more loving place. But cats come with benefits and drawbacks, as most things do. There are several ways your cat might be enriching your health — but there are also many ways it could be endangering it. Read on to learn a little more about the health benefits (starting on page 1) and drawbacks (starting on page 7) of these feline friends.

Owning a cat is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke

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Cats can lower your risk of heart disease. | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Researchers suggest that owning a cat can reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack by 33%. A study about the correlation between cat ownership and heart attack or stroke concluded that 3.4% of people who owned a cat suffered from a heart attack or stroke compared to 5.8% of those who did not own a cat. Even with other medical factors included, cat owners still showed a lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

Next: Here’s why cats may lower heart disease risk. 

Cats are also linked to lower blood pressure

Older Blood Pressure measurement

Cats can lower blood pressure. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

One reason cats may reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke is because they help reduce blood pressure. Those with lower blood pressure tend to have better heart health overall. But the calming effect cats offer helps to reduce the high strung feelings that often accompany high blood pressure. A cat’s purr also has a calming effect.

Next: Cats can also help relieve this. 

Cats can help relieve stress and anxiety

A woman with anxiety featured image

Cats can relieve stress and anxiety. | iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

Owning a cat helps keep you calm. But besides helping with stress, cats can also reduce anxiety, which is a mental illness that can seriously inhibit your day-to-day life, depending on its severity. Animals of all kinds tend to offer emotional support to their owners, and those with anxiety can benefit greatly from owning a pet. Plus, the sound of a cat’s purr tends to relax us, which helps rid those anxious thoughts and allows us to calm down.

Next: Cats help with loneliness. 

Cats serve as companions for those who might otherwise feel lonely

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Cats can reduce loneliness. | SuzanaMarinkovic/iStock/Getty Images

Pets, such as cats, offer a sense of companionship to single people. A recent survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association concluded that the rate of pet ownership among singles increased by 17% between 2006 and 2011. That’s because people who don’t receive a sense of companionship from a life partner can find it in a pet. And some research suggests that not having that sense of companionship can affect your lifespan.

Next: Cats are also therapeutic. 

Cats can be therapeutic for anyone going through a tough time

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Cats can help you mourn. | Sasiistock/Getty Images

Cats offer a sense of calmness, but they can also be therapeutic. If you’re going through a difficult time, such as mourning the loss of a loved one or a bad breakup, a pet can offer a sense of emotional support and companionship to help you get through what you’re dealing with. The therapeutic angle of pets is not unique to cats, but cats do fall into that therapeutic category. Owning any pet can help an owner get through difficult times.

Next: Cats are better for the environment than dogs — here’s why. 

Cats produce a lower carbon footprint than dogs

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Cats have a smaller carbon footprint than dogs. | Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

For those concerned about the environment, cats produce a lower carbon footprint than dogs. While pets as a whole are responsible for about one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, dogs eat more meat, which leaves a bigger carbon footprint. Since dog meat tends to be highly processed, their footprint grows as their food is manufactured, according to Forbes. While cats also eat meat, they eat less food in general due to their size, meaning they have a smaller carbon footprint.

Next: Owning a pet can boost this. 

Owning a pet boosts allergen immunity

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Cats can help with allergies. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

This goes for both cats and dogs: Owning a pet could boost your immune system. This is because pets expose us to certain allergens, which help our bodies adjust to allergens they’re unfamiliar with. Also, owning a pet improves quality of life, and happier people with better qualities of life are not only mentally healthier but also physically healthier. Studies suggest that pets can also release some “good” bacteria that help boost our immune systems as well.

Next: But cats can come with health risks — and some are very serious. 

Allergies can be a problem

Sick woman with headache

For some, cats can cause allergies. | BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images

Some people don’t take well to animals due to the allergens that animals carry with them. And while these allergens can help boost the immune system, not everyone’s immune system is cut out to handle them. If you’ve noticed a stuffy nose or watery eyes any time you’re around a cat, the cat could be endangering your health. It’s also important to inform those around you that you have a cat in case you plan to have friends or family to your home.

Next: You definitely don’t want to get a cat bite. 

Cat bites are more dangerous than you think

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A cat bite can be incredibly dangerous. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Cats are household pets that don’t bite very often. But when they strike, there can be serious consequences. Some cat bites can lead to serious infections because cats have bacteria in their mouths that aren’t present among dogs or other animals. Specifically, when a cat bites your hand, the bacteria easily infiltrates your skin and joints. A bite in the hand can potentially be more harmful than a bite anywhere else.

Next: If you get bit by a cat, it’s not uncommon to spend days in the hospital. 

The average hospital stay for a cat bite is more than three days

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Expect to spend a few days in the hospital if you’re admitted. | Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images

A study published in The Journal of Hand Surgery found that 30% of those who were bit on the hand by a cat needed to be hospitalized due to a serious infection. The average length of a hospital stay was 3.2 days because the infections can make people severely ill. In 14% of the cases studied, oral antibiotics failed to treat the infections, which also led to hospitalization. Of the 193 cases studied, 67% needed dead tissue removed, and eight people needed surgery because the infection had become so severe.

Next: Cats are more likely to infect you than dogs — here’s why. 

Cats are more likely to cause infections than dogs

Cute cat and dog sleeping together

Cats are more likely to give you an infection than dogs. | Kozorog/iStock/Getty Images

Cats have sharper teeth than dogs, so dog bites don’t penetrate as deeply as cat bites, CBS reported. A cat’s sharp teeth allows bacteria to reach deeper parts of the body, which makes infections from cat bites very common. And for those with weak immune systems, overcoming an infection can be difficult. In rare cases, cat bites can be deadly.

Next: Cat scratches can be dangerous, too. 

‘Cat scratch fever’ is a real thing

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A cat scratch can also cause a lot of problems. | Tharakorn/Getty Images

Sometimes, even a scratch from a cat can cause an infection. Known as cat scratch fever, the illness occurs when an infected cat scratches a person (this can also happen from a bite) and spreads the disease to that person. According to the CDC, the illness occurs when bacteria from a cat infects a person; it can lead to swollen lymph nodes, fever, exhaustion, poor appetite, and headache. And if you think you may have cat scratch fever, it’s important to contact your doctor.

Next: Cats can be especially dangerous to pregnant women. 

Cats can potentially affect a woman’s pregnancy

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Cats can be dangerous to pregnant women. | Dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Cats play a serious role in the spread of a disease called toxoplasmosis, which is a disease that comes from a parasite often carried by cats. The disease is similar to the Zika virus in that it doesn’t do much to those who have it, but it can cause serious complications in unborn children. The disease can cause a miscarriage, the child to be stillborn, or the child to have visible signs of toxoplasmosis, such as an abnormally large or small head. The parasite is present in cat feces, so pregnant women should not clean their cat’s litter box.

Next: The parasite can be spread through food, too. 

Depending on what you eat, the cat parasite may spread to you

Buyer woman chooses chopped meat in a shop

Raw meat is another way to get the parasite. | sergeyryzhov/Getty Images

The disease can be spread to foods as well, and those consumed foods can then infect humans. The best way to prevent spreading the disease through food is to always cook food thoroughly before consuming it. Also, avoid any cross contamination with utensils, cutting boards, etc. Make sure food is cooked to its appropriate temperature before consuming.

Next: Cats are more of a health risk than dogs. 

Overall, dogs are less of a health risk than cats

dog in the water

Dogs are safer than cats when it comes to disease. | Rommma/iStock/Getty Images

Although dogs have been known to pose a few health risks too, cats are actually the more dangerous of the two. Since dog bites don’t penetrate the skin as deeply as cat bites, they are considered less dangerous. To avoid infection, never provoke your cat or put it in a setting that would make it get defensive. And if you are pregnant, ask a partner or friend to clean the cat’s litter box.

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