This is great news for anyone who’s ever been pegged as a “crazy cat lady”: being a cat lady is actually good for your health. Science says so.
Owning a cat can help reduce stress, and it’s good for your heart, too.
One study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that cat ownership can be beneficial to heart health in multiple ways. Cat owners in the study showed a lower risk of death by heart attack and all cardiovascular diseases, including stroke.
Also, petting your cat is a known stress reliever. Cuddling with your cat releases oxytocin, the “cuddle chemical,” which in turn reduces stress, according to NBC News.
Another study found that cat lovers are more open-minded, smarter and more sensitive than dog lovers.
So why the assumption that cats aren’t good for your health?
Well, there’s an age-old myth holds that cats can literally drive you crazy. This stems, in part, from the fact that cat feces can sometimes contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. It’s an infection that actually can lead to psychosis (contaminated water and undercooked meat can also cause toxoplasmosis).
Not all cats carry the parasite though, and even if you get infected, you’ll likely be fine. A recent study in Psychological Medicine found no relationship between cat ownership and psychosis later in life.
“The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 60 million people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite through all means, including cats,” David Haworth, doctor of veterinary medicine, Ph.D., and president of PetSmart Charities told NBC News. “But very few people show symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.”
So there you have it, cat people. Cats don’t drive you crazy; on the contrary, they’re good for you.