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The health benefits of cat ownership

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

WNCN's Sharon Tazewell and health expert Dr. Kevin Campbell visited Safe Haven for Cats in Raleigh to meet some kittens and examine the health benefits of owning a cat.

It may be surprising to some people, but various studies have shown a wide range of health benefits unique to having a cat in the house.

One such study done by the University of Minnesota found that those without cats were between 30 and 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than cat owners.

In the study, researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Research Center looked at 4,435 people, aged 30 to 75 years. They found that over a 20-year period that those who had never owned a cat had a 40 percent greater risk of death due to heart attack and a 30 percent higher risk of death due to any sort of cardiovascular disease than previous or current cat owners.

Dog owners did not see the same benefits.

Other studies have shown that simply stroking a cat is not only calming, but that it also lowers blood pressure. According to a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo, pet owners are more likely to have lower blood pressure than those who don't.

In their study they looked at stockbrokers with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog. They found that they had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than their non-pet-owning counterparts.

Safe Haven for Cats are involved with local nursing homes in the area and the residents saw benefits from having cats come in and visit.

"The people in the nursing homes would tell us the day before we came (that) certain people that were looking forward to our visit would start to get excited and come out of their shell," said Pam Miller, founder of Safe Haven for Cats.

"They'd reach out to us with their hands and to the kitties and we'd put the kitties right in their beds with them. It was really a wonderful way to connect (with) those people who are somewhat isolated, through the love of an animal; the warmth, a touch, the purring."

Even the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta believes cats will provide health benefits.

Adults are not the only ones who benefit from caring for a cat. Children who have participated in the raising of a pet have shown higher self-esteem levels, better social skills and a greater sense of responsibility toward others. For young children and infants, exposure to cats at a young age can also help the child develop resistance to allergens and asthma.

Some other interesting cat facts: cats purr at a frequency that has been shown to promote bone healing in patients with fractures. Cats have been show to be great for helping people cope with cancer, depression and more. Pet therapy in hospitalized patients has been shown to improve mood and promote recovery.

Safe Haven for Cats has adopted nearly 6,000 cats over the past 20 years. For more information, visit their website.

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