April 17, 2017

Why Cats Make the Best Pets for Retirees

When it comes to finding the right pet for your life after retirement, felines are the cat’s meow. Low maintenance and mellow, cats require little work and offer big benefits.

After 65-year-old Fredi Miller retired from her job as a cat caregiver at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, she adopted a special needs cat, Naveen, who had been under her care at the sanctuary. In the months since Miller brought her home, Naveen has bonded with Miller’s other two cats and her special needs foster cat.

Naveen, who used to spend her days alone in a cat tree, now socializes and plays. Watching the cat’s personality blossom has brought much joy to Miller’s first months of retirement. “She adds so much to my life,” she says.

If you’re retired or planning to retire, you too might want to consider adding a feline friend to your life. Here are eight reasons cats make the best pets for retirees:

1. Cats Sit Quietly by Your Side

Plenty of retirees take up hobbies like cycling, running, and even skydiving, but for many, retirement is a time to settle into quieter pursuits like reading, coloring and binge-watching the must-see TV series your friends recommended. Cats make perfect companions for those low-key activities.

Despite their reputation for independence, many cats actually enjoy curling up on the couch with their humans, points out Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that gathers and funds research on the benefits of companion animals.

Two of Miller’s cats love to snuggle up on her lap while she watches TV, but even Inga, her independently minded third cat, will climb into her lap when she’s in the mood. Miller says.

2. Purrs Provide Soothing White Noise

There’s something special about a cat’s purr, and many find the sound exceptionally calming. Cats likely purr for a variety of reasons, and in various situations, such as when they’re happy, hungry or even stressed. Think of it as a way to self-soothe. And purring may help cats to heal by reducing pain, repairing bones and stimulating muscle growth.

There’s even speculation that those same vibrations may have beneficial effects on human health, but more research needs to be done. In the meantime, we’ll have to take the word of cat owners who claim that the soft purrs of their favorite feline quells anxiety.

3. Petting Reduces Stress

There’s something especially wonderful about petting the soft, silky fur of a cat. A cat’s coat may contain as many as 130,000 hairs per square inch, which is one of the reasons it feels so luxurious to the touch. And petting your cat doesn’t just feel good, it’s good for you.

As you pet your cat, the level of oxytocin in your brain increases, Feldman explains. “Oxytocin is a really good hormone associated with reducing stress,” he adds. “The level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, goes down when petting your cat.”

4. Cats Do Your Heart Good

Having a feline friend around may promote heart health. One study found that current cat owners, and even those who had lived with a cat in the past, had a lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who never had a cat. Should that stat send you to the local animal shelter to adopt a kitten companion? Give it some serious thought. Getting a cat “may represent a novel strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals,” according to the study.

5. Cats Can Get You Moving

Generally, the daily tasks associated with cat care aren’t physically taxing, but some activities due encourage light exercise, which can be good for your health, says Darius Russin, MD, a family practice physician and geriatrician in Austin, Texas.

For example, lightly brushing a cat that enjoys being groomed can be beneficial if you have arthritis in your wrists, Russin explains. Playing with a feather-and-stick can provide an arm workout, along with exercise for your cat. And throwing a small ball for your cat to chase encourages you to move around as you go through the motions of throwing the ball, walking to wherever your cat drops it, and bending to pick it up, he adds.

6. Cats Are Self-Cleaning

A major bonus to having a cat is that you almost never have to bathe your cat or pay a groomer to do so (though, if you have a long-haired cat, you might want to opt for regular trims).

Cats are meticulous about grooming themselves, and may spend as much as half of each day cleaning their fur. This is good news for retirees who either can’t hoist an animal into a tub or would rather spend their free time doing something a little more fun than trying to suds up a reluctant pet.

Another upside on the cleanliness of cats: You’re unlikely to ever have to scrub muddy paw prints off your floors.

7. Cats Are Relatively Affordable

If you no longer have a steady paycheck coming in, you might be looking for an animal friend that won’t break that bank. Although any pet—even a fish—can become sick and require emergency vet care, the day-to-day expenses of a cat tend to be fairly manageable.

On average, cat owners spend less than $250 annually on food and less than $200 a year on routine vet care. And perhaps because cats don’t require walks and you can have a friend or a neighbor check on your cat if you’re gone for a long weekend, cat owners spend only about $130 a year on boarding. Plus, cats don’t tend to destroy their toys so they last a long time, so cat owners spend only about $28 a year on toys.

8. Cats Won’t Bother the Neighbors

If you’ve recently downsized, you might be living in an apartment, town home or other location where you’re closely surrounded by neighbors. Luckily, you probably won’t have to worry about your cat disturbing anyone who lives nearby. Cats are so quiet that your neighbors may not even realize you have a pet.

In short, there are many reasons feline friends and retirement make a good match. “Cats are wonderful animals, and they make excellent companions,” Miller says.

Would you prefer a canine companion? Check out Why Dogs Make the Best Pets for Retirees

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