Cats are brilliant for all age groups and while we may think we care for them — they really know that they care for us!
Carole Bosanko is the author of a brand-new book called ‘Mindfulness for Cat Lovers’ that provides cat-related exercises that will show how our cats can help us bring more mindfulness and happiness into each day, which can have a host of benefits including reducing stress and boosting the immune system. You can buy the book from the Your Cat shop.
Here, Carole gives an idea of just how cats can be a positive force in our lives by showing how having cats can help us at each life stage…
Infancy and Childhood
The formative years are a great time to have a cat. Children who grow up with cats learn about compassion, caring, and connecting. By having cats, children can develop empathy and understanding.
Cats can also help calm and relax children. Having the love and companionship of a cat can make children feel important and help them develop positive self-images. Cats are great listeners and offer unconditional love, which can help children to build self-confidence.
From a practical point of view, children with cats are known to have less risk of allergies. Asthma may even be reduced by having a cat in infancy. Many young children who have a cat within the family have been shown to have lower sickness absenteeism from school.
A feline companion also helps teach life lessons. As children learn about how to care for a cat, they are taking on lessons about responsibility. Some children with learning difficulties are even better able to interact with cats than people — helping them to express themselves which can help their interactions with people.
Those teenage years are a time of many changes with many stressors and having the companion of a cat can ease the journey!
With school and exam pressures, cats can be the tonic for honing the self-soothing response and help to create calmer times and coping strategies. A cat can also be a great friend and companion when things are tough and times are hard. They provide a structure to the day, bring lightness and laughter with their playfulness, and the purring of a cat brings calm and reassurance every time!
As we become adults and begin to establish things in our lives, there can be many great joys but also many challenges. It is a time of transition and as such can be a time of stress.
Cats can help with anxiety and depression and it’s been shown that playing with a cat can elevate levels of the calming and relaxing chemicals serotonin and dopamine in our bodies.
At this stage of life, there can be regional and even country moves due to jobs. During these disruptions cats can be both the ‘constants ‘and also the ‘connectors’ to new friendships and relationships. Being a cat owner and cat lover means that there’s always a story to tell or anecdote to share. Bonds are made over cats! The numerous social media groups, cat magazines, and organisations provide a great way of linking in with like-minded people. It’s easy with a cat vibe to find a cat tribe!
More young adults are also getting into mindfulness as a way of having a healthier lifestyle and managing stress. Cats once again can help! As they live in the present moment and have a soothing influence, they make the perfect pet to demonstrate the principles and benefits of mindfulness. Cats can make it easy to be mindful and also can show how to be more self-caring and self-compassionate.
This can be a time of even more change and health might also be starting to fray at the edges. Cats can come to the rescue again. Our feline companions can help lift spirits and energise. Research has found that just watching cat videos can boost energy and create positive emotions. They can also help with a healthier heart as having a cat has a positive calming effect, just stroking a cat can lower stress levels.
The senior years can be a tricky stage of life where one can suffer loss, health is deteriorating, and loneliness can be experienced. As well as providing vital companionship, having a cat in one’s life can play an important role in healthy ageing.
The companionship of a cat can help prevent illness and even add years. Caring for cats can help us feel needed and wanted, and can take the focus away from problems, if only for a short while. While we need to provide a routine for our cats it can give motivation for each day. Cats can be confidants; they get told troubles and they just sit there listening and not judging. Cats have also been shown to help people with loss and bereavement by providing ‘social support’ during difficult times.
Across life and within all the age groups, cats offer so many physical health, psychological health, well-being, social and happiness benefits — but I’, guessing you’ll know most of these already!
Written by Carole Bosanko Author of ‘Mindfulness for Cat Lovers ‘, Mindful Self-Compassion teacher and Clinical Psychologist.