They’re warm, they’re furry, and they love you just the way you are. And most of the time, you’d rather be around them than other humans. Aside from the mostly unconditional love they offer, pets come with other benefits. Researchers Friedmann, Barker, & Allen (2011) (among many others) conducted a pretty interesting study. They asked people to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours for three alternate days. They’re blood pressure was recorded every 20 minutes, and the participants were asked to write in a diary who they were with and what they were doing when their blood pressure was being recorded (all the people in the study were taking blood pressure medication). The researchers discovered that when people were around their pet, their blood pressure (and stress level) went down.
Now, being a cat owner, I recognize and appreciate my cat’s ability to make me smile and to help me relax, but I can’t help but remark on her sense of self-importance. So when she’s causing trouble and looks at me with those innocent and expressive eyes, this is what I imagine her saying:
I bring you much love, my human. Well, what YOU would perceive as love. I see it more as a mutual relationship where we bring benefits to each other. And while you think my quirks are annoying sometimes, it’s my version of tough love, baby. For example:
- I offer free massages and occasionally let my claws out in the process, to make sure you don’t fall asleep.
- I rub my cheek against you to mark you as my territory, in case, you know, you forget that you belong to me, not the other way around.
- My tendency to turn on a dime and claw you (despite the fact that I was purring a second ago) reminds you that happiness is fleeting, so enjoy it while you have it.
- When I hog the bed, it’s because I want to teach you an important zen-like lesson: Don’t become attached to your possessions.
- You should be inspired by my tendency to do whatever I want whenever I want, and follow my example. And, once you’re released from jail (I would imagine) for following my lesson, I’ll be there to welcome you home.
- Don’t be ashamed of your mistakes or failures. Just do what I do when I knock over something breakable, or miss that leap onto the table…casually turn around and walk away, or sit there and lick yourself, pretending nothing happened.
- Who says you have to explain your decisions to others, or obtain their approval? If you decide to run at top speed from one random room to another at 3am (like I do), then do it!
- You shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself, honestly. Just because I follow you into the bathroom and intensely watch everything you do, there’s no need to be embarrassed or uptight.
- Why do you put so much stock in your technology, like your alarm? You’re becoming too dependent on it! I’m more than happy to wake you up early in order to feed me, even if it’s an hour or two before you’re supposed to wake up.
- Yes, I know there’s water in my bowl. But there’s water in your glass too and I want to drink it. After all, aren’t experts always saying we need 8 glasses a day?
- Don’t take my habit of lying down on your keyboard, book, or important papers as an inconvenience or annoyance. So what if you’re in the middle of something? You need a break!
- You know how boot-camp workouts do that jumping into tires thing? That’s what I’m trying to get you to do when I weave in and out of your legs while you’re walking, or going down stairs. I’m just trying to bolster your workout…improve your flexibility….coordination…balance…cardiovascular health. You’re welcome.
Insightfully and fluffifully yours,
Queen D (and by extension, Raven the Cat)
- Friedmann, E., Barker, S. B., & Allen, K. M. (2011). Physiological Correlates of Health Benefits From Pets. Mcardle, P. (Ed.), McCune, S. (Ed.), Griffin, J. A. (Ed.), & Maholme, V. (Ed.). How animals affect us: Examining the influences of human-animal interaction on child development and human health (pp. 163-182). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.