Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Medicine Science

Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health 406

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..."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health

Comments Filter:
  • Obviously (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:12AM (#22699028)
    Obviously, they died of furball before they were old enough to have a heart attack.
  • LOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by 16Chapel ( 998683 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:13AM (#22699036)
    I'm in ur aortas, reducing your stress

    K thnx bai
    • Re:LOL (Score:4, Funny)

      by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:17AM (#22699614)
      so i really can has cheezburger?
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gardyloo ( 512791 )

        There are tons of studies to back up that rather obvious claim.

        Every species of cat purrs, both large and small. No other animal on earth purrs.
        Google "Do lions purr?". First hits say "No." Admittedly, I'm not entirely trustful of those sites, but they give *some* reasoning. Care to back your assertions?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by catman ( 1412 )
        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 ^_^ )
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:16AM (#22699062)
    Pussy is actually good for you, while having a bitch in your life makes no noticible improvements.
  • My cats (Score:5, Funny)

    by foistboinder ( 99286 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:16AM (#22699066) Homepage Journal

    They obviously have never seen our cats. Stress reducers? I don't think so.

    • by arivanov ( 12034 )
      They are. Even a siamese is a great stress reducer. I wish I could convince my wife to agree to be staff to a new house owner but as a member of "The Dog's party" she refuses to concede on this one
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuickFox ( 311231 )
        One solution might be to get both a cat and a dog.

        Contrary to some people's beliefs, cats and dogs will get along very nicely once they get to know each other. The easiest way to achieve this is to let them grow up together from a very young age.
      • Re:My cats (Score:5, Insightful)

        by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:05AM (#22700332)
        Siamese have a bad rap, just because they can be loud. We have two in our house, and they are the friendlist most loyal cats. They love being around us and love human attention.
    • 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.

    • Re:My cats (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:11AM (#22699524) Homepage
      Exactly, I have a 1 year old persian that is Evil Incarnate. The little bastard will happily sneak up on you in the middle of the night and then decide to crawl under the covers to steal heat. Then if you move that's the sign to play and you awake in a shriek of "WHAT HE HELL! STOP CLAWING ME!" and then it gives you the innocent kitty look so you dont throw it across the room.

      This cat does a lot of other things that has me convinced it's trying to kill me. rushes down the stairs to get fed and then stops on the second step from the bottom so you almost trip and fall to your death for example. I am sure if it could figure out how to flush the toilet when I was in the shower it would be doing it.

      I am 100% convinced that cats hate humans. I am certain that if my cat was scaled up to large dog size I would be eaten within 24 hours.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        I am certain that if my cat was scaled up to large dog size I would be eaten within 24 hours.

        In other news, people who keep lions or tigers are unlikely to die of heart attacks, because their pets can sense who in the herd is weak and sick.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fm6 ( 162816 )

        I am certain that if my cat was scaled up to large dog size I would be eaten within 24 hours.
        Of course! The sole purpose of the human race is to keep cats fed! Any cat will tell you that.

  • Anyone see that joke/story that shows speaking English is what kills you early? I think the causation link is a bit weak, even if they can't find define it so well here. Apparently having dogs doesn't have the same effect. Cats (well all animals) are known to carry certain virus types and germs. I'm thinking that is the real thing at issue here. I didn't see if kissing the cat had anything to do with the results either. There are so many things that could fall into play here. I hope they figure out how to b
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      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 ther
      • What you say is interesting, but dogs didn't seem to do the trick so it looks like there is more to it. If in fact you are right and it's just the stress release at work, there is hope for robotic pets to do the same thing once they are designed appropriately. It should also work with certain kinds of dogs too, as well as other pets. I still say the final verdict is still out on this.
        • This is just another example of bad science. Someone either wanted these results and found them by either manufacturing them or ignoring data that did not correlate with the "expected" findings. At best they jumped to a conclusion while ignoring the actual cause of the effect, if there was one. Most likely they had a statistical blip due to the small group they sampled. Repeated studies with larger sample groups with control groups looking at non-cat owners and dog owners would probably show this is non
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        I think huffing them [uncyclopedia.org] is what causes the reduction in heart disease.
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by thedeadswiss ( 573599 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:18AM (#22699080)
    Does this mean that I can use my health insurance to pay for cat food?
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      Does this mean that I can use my health insurance to pay for cat food?

      No. Why? Because people who sell insurance are stupid and evil.

      Proof? Insurance covers fertility treatment, but it doesn't cover birth control. It covers cancer treatment, but not treatment for nicotine addiction.

      The car insurance company is betting that you'll not wreck your car, while you're betting you will. The health insurance company is betting that you'll not get sick, and the life insurance company is betting you won't die.

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:07AM (#22699484)
      No, but if you live in the U.S. you may have to EAT cat food to afford health insurance.
  • ....would seriously shorten the cat's life not to mention my allergies would kill me. Probably be a tossup as to who died first.
  • Reasons? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:21AM (#22699108) Homepage

    Anyone who owns a cat has had the groggy middle of the night lights-off walk to the kitchen to get a drink, only to step on their cat's tail and get that nice shot of a adrenaline pumping through their arteries. Maybe it strengthens their heart, or trains their reactions to not get so damned surprised by things that their heart could stop.

    Then again if things like this happen often enough to have effect, maybe they just shouldn't have a cat :)

  • Pseudo-science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:21AM (#22699110) Homepage
    The story is about a common kind of mistake that shows how important it is to understand the scientific method. Someone does a study and finds that there is a statistical correlation between one phenomenon and another. Then there is a claim that one of the phenomena is the cause of the other. Actually, however, they can both be related to something else that is not understood.

    Single people die earlier than married people. The reason does not appear to be that marriage prolongs life. Apparently those who have no strong ties to another person when they are 50 or older are likely to be alone because of some huge stress in their lives. It is the stress that kills, not being unmarried.
    • Problem with these medical studies is that your average med school student avoids "hard" classes like the plague because they'll reduce his/her sterling GPA. Those include, notably, any math class beyond calculus (like upper level stats) and your real Physical Chemistry classes, for instance. As a result you get these clowns putting out research like this, the "cell phones cause cancer" thing, etc.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      I remember being taught the old "ice cream causes rape" example of spurious causation. When ice cream sales go up, so do rape numbers > Therefore ice cream causes people to rape. Of course, the real answer is that both go up in the summer.
    • Also, the study group excludes all those cat owners (and non cat owners) who have already died from heart attacks; in particular, those who have done so before 30.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      You're committing the same fallacy. The truth is that there's a correlation, but the causitive factors haven't been determined.

      As a divorced man, I think the reason single people die earlier is because there's nobody there to call 911. But that's just a hypothesis, not even a theory, let along proof.
    • This is especially true about "life style" indicators. People owning cats are likely to have other life-style factors in common, some of which will affect health.
    • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:38AM (#22699898) Homepage Journal

      Correlation does not mean causation.


      Yet in TFA's case, there were also these statements:

      1. The stress-cardiovascular disease link is well-documented in scientific literature, and the affection and pleasure pets give humans is a known stress-buster.
      2. "We certainly expected an effect, because we thought that there was a biologically plausible mechanism at work. But the magnitude of the effect was hard to predict."
      3. She pointed to multiple studies that have found that animal companions "have a calming effect in regard to mental stressors."

      So after RTFA, there is ample cause to believe that the statistics were analyzed within the context of a hypothesis that the reporter did not explicitly state.

      Finding a strong correlation that must exist if the hypothesis is true generally increases confidence in the hypothesis.

      Why wasn't the hypothesis reported in the story? More than likely, because it was framed as a null hypothesis [wikipedia.org], and those can be hard to dummy down to the general public's limited understanding of the scientific method— at least within the framework of articles like TFA. These are written to report newsworthy events, not to teach high school science.

    • by keineobachtubersie ( 1244154 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:08AM (#22700380)
      "The story is about a common kind of mistake that shows how important it is to understand the scientific method. Someone does a study and finds that there is a statistical correlation between one phenomenon and another. Then there is a claim that one of the phenomena is the cause of the other. Actually, however, they can both be related to something else that is not understood."

      It's not a mistake at all, and your example is terrible.

      First, what you're talking about is called a Confounding Variable http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confounding_variable [wikipedia.org]

      Second, you're making the typical mistake of assuming that because confounding variables are sometimes present that they are ALWAYS present, or not controlled for. Do you know what confounding variables were controlled for in this study before you make the assumptions you have? No you do not.

      Third, that ridiculous "correlation does not equal causation" mantra that is so often tossed about is designed like so many other easily remembered but relatively useless memes. It's not a scientific principle, it's a caution, nothing more.

      The fact is, most of the time, correlation has some effect on causation. If nothing else, it indicates a relationship worth examining.

      "Apparently those who have no strong ties to another person..."

      This makes me ask, why denounce his study then do exactly what you denounced it for?

      I can't tell you how tired I am of people getting modded insightful for misunderstanding then regurgitating something that most people who discuss this subject should understand at a base level.

      There's nothing remotely insightful about restating "correlation does not equal causation".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thanasakis ( 225405 )

      Single people die earlier than married people.
      But I bet that married people are more willing to die!..

  • ...those who have cats arguably are NOT allergic to cat fur. So perhaps the same population is less likely to suffer from some form of heart disease.

  • by blcamp ( 211756 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:23AM (#22699124) Homepage

    I like cats, and my family has had pet cats in the past, but I just can't give this "survey" very much legitimacy.

    I could find a similar "survey audience" of beer drinkers, sex addicts, computer geeks (never mind, I'm already here!), root canal patients, or ANY group, and come up with whatever "favorable result" I want.

    Just my opinion and observation, but it seems to me more like an agenda piece than an honest scientific exercise.

    • by Freexe ( 717562 )
      There are theories as to why cats extend life more than dogs/other groups. One is that when they purr, the vibration is good for you (http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast02nov_1.htm). Another one is that they relax you more than other animals (they come and sit on your lap, don't take much effort to look after) and stress has been linked to dieing younger.

      Either way, cats live a long time for their size, they must be doing something right.

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      I could find a similar "survey audience" of beer drinkers, sex addicts, computer geeks (never mind, I'm already here!), root canal patients, or ANY group, and come up with whatever "favorable result" I want.

      So, you're saying the statistical link between cigarette smoking and cancer is bullshit? They didn't just survey cat owners, they surveyed pet owners and people who never owned pets.

      Sorry, I just don't seee the insight there.
  • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:28AM (#22699158) Journal
    I don't remember the exact words. If anyone remembers better, please post.

    Catbert, evil director of human resources.

    Catbert: Did you know that petting a cat results in lower blood pressure?

    (employee begins to rub catbert's tummy)

  • Sigh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:28AM (#22699162)
    Maybe it's just me, but these "Study finds x could decrease your risk of y by z%" news stories seem to be getting a little out of hand. "The team tracked the death rates for all causes and (surprise!) found some correlation in the statistics". What's next? Study finds people who paint their walls white decrease their risk of brain cancer by 20%? Seems like they'll publish anything just to publish something.

    I mean, if this is all it takes to have a career in research then maybe I picked the wrong field. I'd be happy to run some statistics through a data miner for a university salery and grant money.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      I'd be happy to run some statistics through a data miner for a university salery and grant money.

      I think you have to know how to spell "salary" before they'll give you a grant, let alone a salary. ;)
  • ... reduce the risk of heart disease. Especially if you take your dog on five-mile walks each day (and yes, that means that you walk/bike too).
  • Hmm? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Canosoup ( 1153521 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:34AM (#22699206) Homepage
    Does this include looking at hundreds of Lolcat pictures a day?
  • I bet all the money in my pocket (admittedly not a lot) that this finding is a result of an overzealous data analysis.

    The basic idea behind using statistical methods to test hypotheses is to compute the chance that the resulting data is oriented the way is is by coincidence. If this chance is exceedingly small, the variance in the data can't be explained by coincidence and must be due to some systematic effect. Depending on the type of research, probabilities between 5% and .01% are considered low and stati

  • 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?
  • This is a perfect example of Slashdot. The top story is about how owning a cat lowers your risk of a heart attack and stroke, with a comment that correlation does not imply causation, and three stories down is a piece about bad science journalism. =-)
  • I'm much more relaxed (less stressed with lower blood pressure) since I got a kitty kat. Having a cat simply puts things in perspective sometimes, and the contact and love you get from them is wonderful. And they are hilarious!

    It's not necessarily a direct link to longer life, but most things aren't. Lead a relaxed loving life and at least you'll have enjoyed it, even if you do cark it early and your cat can't save you.
  • Ownership?? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Nonillion ( 266505 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:51AM (#22699338)
    You mean Guardianship. Humans need to discard the notion that "animals" are nothing more than property. You don't own an animal anymore than you would own your children. They have personalities, wants and needs just like us humans. I have three cats, they are family members, not some inanimate objects that act like they're alive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by yivi ( 236776 )
      And yet you say "I have three cats", and not "three cats live with me" or something of the sort.

      If you are going to be ridiculously politically correct, please go all the way.

      Thanks and regards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Corf ( 145778 )
      Sure would be swell, wouldn't it? Except that legally, in the US, humans DO own pets... so the terminology becomes more practical. Here's the AKC's take on the subject. [akc.org] They support use of the word "owner." Pets do have financial as well as emotional value, and terminology must reflect that to effectively preserve both. Summed up at the bottom of the page:

      The AKC believes that the term guardian may in fact reduce the legal status and value of dogs as property and thereby restrict the rights of owners,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon ( 845873 )

      I would also point out that ownership of animals is not legally the same as ownership of inanimate objects. If I want to smash my TV with a hammer, I'm perfectly entitled to do so; cruelty to animals is a crime. In fact, I have a legal obligation to provide food, water, sanitation, and shelter to my pets. So the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (where I live) has already discarded the notion that animals are "nothing more than property". That is, they're legally considered property, but not on the same lev

      • by maz2331 ( 1104901 )
        Everyone knows that you don't own a cat, the cat owns you. We don't even need "In Soviet Russia" on this one, it's pretty much universal.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      If I buy something, I own it. You can't buy children, although you could a couple hundred years ago. In the 18th century you could indeed buy and own people.
    • Legality (Score:3, Informative)

      by dreamchaser ( 49529 )
      Legally they are owned property. You can spout animal rights rhetoric all you want. They are animals, not people. They are property. Do they have the 'right' to be treated humanely and not be abused? Damn straight. Are they our equals in the eyes of the law? No, nor should they be.

      Disclaimer= I *own* and have *owned* numerous pets. They've all been treated very well, loved and cared for and fed. They have also all been my *property*.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fishthegeek ( 943099 )
      Members of the family huh? You do realize that the only reason your cats do not eat you is that you are bigger than they are.
  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=w0ffwDYo00Q [youtube.com]
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=4rb8aOzy9t4 [youtube.com]

    Cat's reduce stress, sleep time, and number of garden gnomes.
    And they increase headaches and broken glass.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:06AM (#22699474) Journal
    It came up eleven days ago [slashdot.org].

    Besides, as one of the posters to my journal already noted, cats age people like people age wine and cheese.

  • Wasn't someplace saying the exact opposite about a year ago? (dogs have more benefit than cats)

    I don't know where the article is, but I swear I remember it, maybe even posted here on /.
  • by Kristopher Johnson ( 129906 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:12AM (#22699540)
    Given a choice between an early death or living with a cat, I'll take death.
  • It needs more blood, though.
  • I don't know if it's a natural side effect of getting older but this is yet another 'discovery' that I remember reading about years ago. It's getting quite scary how often there seem to be reports of amazing new discoveries which are actually quite well known and understood things but apparantly forgotten by some.
  • its been said before, but correlation does not equal causation.

    plus, how did they measure these things?

    for example, I have been measuring and recording the daily temperature every day this year, starting in August and ending in January. My stats so far show that the temperature of the Earth is cooling quite rapidly. so nuts to this whole global warming thing!

    see how easy stats can be manipulated?

    i think they should expand on this research.
    Is it the benefit unique to cats?
    perhaps it is a beneficial bacteria
  • This would explain the statistically high number of old ladies with numerous cats..... it's a feline cabal designed to keep grannies alive perpetually, for the betterment of society! Feline society, that is!

    After all, who else feeds kitties all the time, but old grannies? ;-)
  • by kcdoodle ( 754976 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:32AM (#22700844)
    Q: How do you make a cat sound like a dog?
    A: Spray him with lighter fluid. One match and he goes WOOF.

    Q: How do you make a dog sound like a cat?
    A: Dip him in liquid nitrogen and cut him in a band-saw. He goes MMMMMEEEEOOOWWW.

    (Funnier with good sound effects.)
    I know this killed my karma, but I had to share these.

  • by guidryp ( 702488 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:42AM (#22701008)
    Correlation doesn't equal causation.

    It could simply be that most hard driving type A folks destined for heart attacks, have less interest in Cats. Giving them a Cat wouldn't lower their actual risk.

    Cat ownership may have nothing to do with it. It just may be that calm easy going folks buy more cats, and hard drivers don't. In the absence of the cats their rate of heart attack may be unchanged, you would just need another mechanism to identify them.

  • Useless. (Score:3, Funny)

    by SilentBob0727 ( 974090 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @11:38AM (#22701982) Homepage
    I never use cat. I use less, awk, head, tail, grep and sometimes vim to discover the contents of my log files.

    But now there's proof that cat can help my heart... !
  • by schweini ( 607711 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @11:41AM (#22702018)
    May i point out that the reverse (causation implies correlation) DOES hold true, and that the whole 'it's just a correlation!' shouting doesn't actually prove whether the study is bogus or not? It still is an interesting data-point, and as a cat-surviver myself, i can only attest to many calming effect a cat, and to a lesser effect a dog might be having on their slave and master, correspondingly. I'm not saying that cats directly reduce the risk of a heart attack, but i think it's interesting that it might be a relatively strong factor playing into the combination of stuff you can do to increase your life expectancy. It might be something as simple as the happiness or the pride that a cat can couse when she decides to honor you with her presence, and starts to purr.
    And besides - weren't there a couple of studies that showed that pets in hospital have benificial effects on the patients?
  • Nobody OWNS a cat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dekortage ( 697532 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#22703186) Homepage

    Let's get this straight. Cats only condescendingly permits us to live in the same house with them. They own us. You die less from heart attacks because it's cheaper for them to keep you alive than to find another pet human.

  • not in China (Score:4, Informative)

    by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#22703352)
    Cat cleanup [dailymail.co.uk] before Olympics. Dont click if you love cats.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.