Sunday, June 5, 2011

On the Meaning of Cats

I read in the newspaper that recently completed research proves that cat owners live longer. Cat owners are 40% less likely to die of a heart attack and 30% less likely to die of any type of cardiovascular disease (including stroke, heart failure, and chronic heart disease) than people who have never had a cat. Yay kitties. According to this latest report, interacting with cats reduces stress. I’m not so sure about that; clearly the experts have not met my scamp Ella, who is the smartest cat in the known world. She is a cat with a sense of humor and the joke is often on me. Ella has figured out how to open the screen door to the back deck. Although her sister, Golda, has seen Ella do this trick over and over again, Golda can’t work out how it’s done. So Golda frequently sits at the door patiently waiting for Ella to appear to open it for her. Golda is a very beautiful orange tabby with green eyes who is a generic cat. Nothing unusual about her. She does all the things cats do. Ella, on the other hand, is kind of like a small child trapped in a cat’s body. Ella is all black with enormous green eyes in a little round face, and a constantly impish expression. I have had about 15 cats over the years, but these two girls are my favorites of all time, especially Ella, who is my darling.

After reading about the increased longevity of cat owners, I wondered if it’s the impact of having a cat in the household that makes the difference or if it has more to do with the sort of person who chooses to have a cat in the first place. Perhaps people who have cats are easily amused, or quickly delighted by the antics of animals and other natural phenomena, or less likely to sweat the small stuff. Interestingly, people who have dogs live longer than people who have never had a cat or dog, but people with dogs don’t live as long as people who have cats. What is up with that? What does this data really tell us? Heck if I know.

The article that said that cat owners live longer also said that the following habits increase longevity: meditating, taking a multivitamin, hanging out frequently with friends, exercising, flossing, eating healthy food (and that specifically included red wine and dark chocolate so yay to that), and getting enough sleep. If I am fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age then I want my extended twilight years to contain a lot of purring and a lot of dark chocolate.

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