There are contrarian views but pundits of ‘puss power’ insist that in the contest for the ideal animal companion cats win paws down.
They may seem aloof and guilty of operating to their own agenda but this also means they are low maintenance.
According to the American Humane Society there are definite health and wellbeing benefits of having a cat around the house.
One is improved mood. Ageing ‘milestones’ such as retirement, moving, loss of partner and friends can produce bouts of mental malaise including loneliness or depression. Studies have shown that pets help seniors overcome these by providing affection, companionship, fun and a sense of responsibility and meaning.
In looking after a pet people tend to remain more active and mobile compared to situations where there are none around.
There are also health benefits. Even though cats need fairly minimal care, what they do require provides much-needed exercise for older owners. Even seniors who have arthritis or other physical limitations can easily care for cats. Caring for, and feeding, them calls for routines and activities seniors might not otherwise have, providing important mental and physical stimulation.
Dog lovers might insist that their charges can deliver anything a feline can. Which is true but there are certain trade-offs.
Here are a few.
Unlike dogs, cats are happy staying indoors all the time.
Most adult cats require only 20 to 30 minutes of playtime per day, and interactive play does not require the owner to be mobile. A kitty fishing pole or the like lets senior cat owners engage their cat in play while sitting in their favourite chair.
Cats are also very content to spend most of their time sleeping on their owner’s lap or bed.