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Medicine Science

Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health 406

Posted by kdawson
from the correlation-is-not-causality dept.
Ant tips us to a story making the rounds lately, based on reporting a couple of weeks old, that owning a cat could cut your heart attack risk by one third. No such effect was seen from dog ownership, but the researchers say that could be because there weren't enough dog owners in the study population to provide meaningful statistics. The study: "...analyzed data on 4,435 Americans, aged 30 to 75, who took part in the federal government's second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, which ran from 1976-1980. According to the data in the survey, 2,435 of the participants either owned a cat or had owned a cat in the past, while the remaining 2,000 had never done so. [The] team then tracked rates of death from all causes, including heart and stroke. Cat owners 'appeared to have a lower rate of dying from heart attacks' over 10 years of follow-up compared to feline-free folk..."
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Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health

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  • by MoonlightSeraphim (1253752) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:26AM (#22699146)
    I'd say it is a bit different and not germs or whatnot. I had a cat in the past. Its simply the way you are around with your pet. if you do not behave calm and always hyper and exited and you decided to pat it, the least you will get in return is your hands and arms scratched. Thus, if you want to spend some time hugging your cat without injuries, you will have to be calm (unless you are a masochist of course) And as for heart attacks. Well, those guys who had cats were definitely much calmer bunch and therefor they didn't stress out as much while reducing impact on their heart.
  • by gregor-e (136142) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:44AM (#22699276) Homepage
    Cats are notorious as reservoirs of Toxoplasma gondii [wikipedia.org], a parasitic protozoa that infects an estimated one-third of the world's population. This parasite causes behaviorial changes in rats that are infected, damping their fear response to the odor of cats, making Toxoplasma less a parasite for the cat and more of a synergist. In humans, Toxoplasma are thought to influence behavior enough that varying infection rates between cultures is thought to explain cultural differences of character. Perhaps they also have a beneficial side-effect on cardiovascular health, explaining the correlation between cat ownership and this observation?
  • Re:My cats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:46AM (#22699292) Journal
    They obviously have never seen our cats. Stress reducers? I don't think so.

    You misunderstand the mechanism by which the protection is granted.

    Endless years of kitty drama builds a general tolerance to drama in a person.

    Then when the frustrating external event occurs that would have caused a normal person to blow a valve and die, you're emotionally prepared to roll your eyes, throw the instigator across the room and go back to your Sudoku.

  • Brilliant! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:59AM (#22699406) Journal
    OMGawd, that's devastating.

    "The following 5000 families who did not currently have a pet were given a cat. How many of them had heart attacks compared to the control sample?"

    Then you can make a Reality Show out of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:29AM (#22699774)
    There may be an important biological factor that explains this correlation. A good percent of cat owners are infected with a benign but neurologically active parasite (Toxoplasma). Known or suspected effects of this parasite are:

    -Increased likelihood of any children being male.
    -Decreased novelty-seeking behaviour.
    -Slower reactions.
    -Lower rule-consciousness and jealousy (in men).
    -More warmth and conscientiousness (in women).

    If it turns out that Toxoplasma is good for heart health, that would go a long way to explain these results.
  • Cats Purr (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:14AM (#22700482)
    They purr when they are happy and they purr when in distress. It helps in healing, even broken bones mend faster when a cat purrs. There are tons of studies to back up that rather obvious claim, but there is some speculation that a cat's purr can speed healing in others as well. Perhaps why a healthy cat will lie next to a sick one and purr? Perhaps why cat owners have healthier hearts?

    Every species of cat purrs, both large and small. No other animal on earth purrs.
  • Re:Cats Purr (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:14PM (#22702574)
    Wikipedia's article on "purr" claims that all cats DO purr, but their link is to an article on cheetahs. Anyone else?
  • Re:Cats Purr (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Verteiron (224042) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:00PM (#22704720) Homepage
    I can say with second-hand experience (my mom used to work at a zoo) that lion cubs purr. My understanding is that they taper off purring as they reach adulthood.
  • Re:Cats Purr (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catman (1412) <{bjornst} {at} {skogkatt.homelinux.org}> on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:21PM (#22707256) Homepage Journal
    Our persian-mix female used to lie down close to our crying baby and purr as loudly as she could. Tried to comfort a "kitten" in distress.

    And from http://www.lionresearch.org/faq.html [lionresearch.org] :

    Do Lions Purr like house cats?
    Lions do occasionally purr, but they are different from house cats in that purring is not common or important in their social life. Also, lions make a sound only as they exhale instead of continuously the way house cats do.

    (hah, for once getting to use my nick properly ^_^ )

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