RA and the Potential of Purr
RATE
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Looking for an easy, helpful tool for living well with rheumatoid disease (and all of the other chaos modern life can hurl at you)?

Ask a cat into your home.

I have firsthand, ongoing, long-time experience with this, so I can speak about it with some authority. Cats can help you cope with your RD physically, emotionally, and practically. Let’s talk about how.

Why Cats?

We’ve all heard about how companion animals can help human beings. After all, about 62 percent of American households have a pet of some kind. But mostly we hear about friendly service dogs visiting ill or elderly people in hospitals and nursing homes, and acting as specially trained helpers for people who are ill, physically or mentally challenged, or disabled.

Cats are famously independent little beasties, however. Some cats deign to be trained and do a great job as visiting or permanent resident therapeutic animals, but many more just aren’t interested. Obey your every command? Sit still for a bunch of touchy-feely strangers? Puh-lease.

Still, cats are truly therapeutic for people who cope with chronic illness and chronic pain. They’re delightful and loving companions, they’re easy to care for, and they have something unique that dogs just don’t: they purr.

ColorCat_by_Leslie_Wren_VandeverThe Potential of Purr

A contented cat’s purr vibrates within 20 to 140 Hz, levels which are medically therapeutic for many illnesses. And who can deny that the low, rhythmic, rumbling sound cats make is soothing to the heart, mind, and soul? Feeling them vibrating calmly beneath your fingertips is almost guaranteed to make the corners of your mouth curl upwards, too. Did you know that the mere act of smiling, even when you aren’t happy, can lighten your mood?

Studies have shown that stroking a purring kitty physically lowers the level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in the body. At the same time, it raises the level of serotonin, a brain chemical associated with happiness and contentment. Stress out, joy in.

There’s more. Stroking the warm, soft fur of a cat, hearing it purr, and interacting with it can lower your blood pressure. Cat owners have less risk of having heart attacks, strokes, and other forms of cardiovascular disease. People who own pets, including cats, tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well.

Purring vibrations also helps heal muscle, tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue injuries in both the cat and in human beings… They help ease breathing and lower pain levels. And that’s not all. A cat’s purr can bring down swelling, help heal infections, and strengthen the immune system. It helps to build bone and heal fractures, too. And some studies indicate that owning a cat may even lower your risk of cancer.

As a person who has RD, I can’t think of a more natural, pleasant way to help treat my disease than having a cat living with me.

Cats are great for your mental health, too. They’re fun to watch when they play. Kittens, in particular, are hilarious wee creatures. They like to play with you, if you’re up for it. Get a laser pointer or a weighted feather on the end of a string and you’ve got hours of fun with your cat ahead.

They’re useful beasties in other ways, too. Not only will they keep mice out of your pantry, they’ll stalk, play with, and kill bugs and spiders in the house, too. And cats go right after griskins. Never heard of those? They’re those invisible, mischievous fairies that invade human homes in search of a good prank. They’re the ones who steal one sock out of a pair from the laundry. They’ll hide your car keys or your phone charger. You get my drift.

Well, cats are the only other creatures on Earth who can see griskins–and they go after them with a vengeance, determined to chase them out of your home. You can tell when your cat’s on a griskin hunt because he’ll suddenly crouch, lay his ears back, and get this crazy-wild look in his eyes. Then he’ll start tearing around the house in hot pursuit of what–to you–looks like nothing at all. He’ll look completely demented, but he won’t rest until he’s chased that griskin out. This time.

Your cat won’t ask for a reward for his selfless protection of your home and belongings. He does it out of the goodness of his heart.

In addition to the way their purrs raise serotonin (joy-juice) levels in the brain, cats are good companions. RD can force people with RD to spend a lot of time home alone. We get lonely and can become isolated, even from our families, and that, along with pain and disability can cause depression. Therapists sometimes prescribe cats as a way to cope with and recover from it.

These small, warm, furry, beautiful animals are good company and good friends. You can talk to your cat about anything, for as long as you want, and she won’t judge you. She’ll love you no matter what. She loves to be warm and comfortable, so curling up on you will be one of her favorite things. You’ll also make her incredibly happy with gentle strokes, skritches, and pats.

Purrs shall erupt.

Some cats are so sensitive, they can often tell when you’re hurting or unhappy. They make it their business to try to relieve some of your pain and lift your mood.

There are no serious side-effects to owning a cat, though there may be some mildly annoying chores associated with it. Although they’re fiercely fastidious animals, you’ll need to keep a litter box for your cat’s private toileting needs–and scoop it daily. And you’ll probably have to keep some sticky lint rollers handy. Cats shed, just like you do, but they have a lot more hair.

If you’re one of those very unfortunate people who’re allergic to cat dander, don’t despair. You may not be able to have a cat of your own, but there’s always the Internet. Cats have taken over the Internet. You can find nearly endless photos and videos of cats that they’ve compelled their people to share with the world. Even watching a cat video or gazing at a cute cat photo will raise your serotonin levels and make you smile. I promise.

So, as you can see, having a cat and rubbing her soft, floofy, warm, cuddly belly is fabulous therapy for anyone with RD. I suggest you visit your nearest animal shelter or kitty rescue organization and get one as soon as possible. There’s just practically no down-side!

view references
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  3. Fogle, Bruce (ed.) (1981). Interrelations Between People and Pets. Charles C. Thomas Pub. Ltd.ISBN 0-398-04169-5.
  4. Jones, Jeffrey M. (30 November 2007)."Companionship and Love of Animals Drive Pet Ownership". Gallup, Inc. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  5. Qureshi, A. I.; Memon, M. Z.; Vazquez, G.; Suri, M. F. (2009). "Cat Ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases". Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology 2 (1): 132–135.
  6. Sharon Guynup (April 21, 2000). "Cats and humans share similar X and Y chromosomes". Genome News Network. Retrieved 14 Feb 2015.
  7. Sharon Guynup (April 21, 2000). "Cats and humans share similar X and Y chromosomes". Genome News Network. Retrieved 14 Feb 2015.
  8. Griffin JA, McCune S, Maholmes V, Hurley K (2011). Human-animal interaction research: An introduction to issues and topics. In McCardle P, McCune S, Griffin JA & Maholmes V (Eds.), How animals affect us (pp. 3-9). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association
  9. Serpell JA (2011). Historical and cultural perspectives on human-pet interactions. In McCardel P, McCune S, Griffin JA, et al, Animals in Our Lives (pp. 7-22). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
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