two cats in the yard

"Two Cats" by Suzanne Valadon
“Two Cats” by Suzanne Valadon

Is owning a cat good for the heart?

Compared with cat owners, people who never had a pet cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack over the 20-year study period. They were also 30% more likely to die of any cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart failure, and chronic heart disease. The results held true even after the researchers took into account other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including age, gender, race, blood pressure, and smoking. The researchers found no such link for people who had a pet dog. The findings were presented here at the American Stroke Association’s (ASA) International Stroke Conference.
~ Charlene Laino

After I happened to hear this fascinating snippet of information on the radio just before the summer solstice, I couldn’t help mentioning it to my husband as we were having a nice dinner out to celebrate the change of seasons. As many of my readers already know, Tim survived a major heart attack almost five years ago, and is likely to have another one sooner or later, which is why this finding is so interesting to us.

We love cats, but we said good-bye to our last one about twelve years ago because I learned I was allergic to them. My sinuses have been 100% better without having them in the house, but I do miss having them underfoot terribly. And Our House has always been our song, and keeping cats has always been part of our dreams together…

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
‘Cause of you
~ Graham Nash
♫ (Our House) ♫

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. Recently I saw the documentary The White Lions on Nature on PBS, and a friend recommended a book, Mystery of the White Lions, which I devoured. Cats, big and small, have been popping up everywhere lately. Since that dinner in June we have been discussing at great length the pros and cons and feasibility of bringing two cats into our lives again. It’s a big responsibility.

We discussed removing all the old carpet to keep allergens to a minimum. And the probable need to add antihistamines to my regimen of drugs. (Although… I’ve been learning about quantum healing and am thinking it might just work on allergies, too.) Tim even made a secret trip to the vet to check out the financial aspects of routine medical care for a couple of kittens.

One day as we were driving along a cat sauntered across the road in front of us. Tim had to bring the car to a complete stop while the cat stopped too and stood his ground in our lane, staring up at us intently. This made us wonder because most cats scurry and scramble out of the way of an approaching car. After he held our attention for a while he slowly continued on his way across the street. There is a lot of synchronicity at work here!

For now we’ve agreed to wait until the fall to make a decision, but in the meantime thoughts of petting purring kittens and cats keep going through my mind…

22 thoughts on “two cats in the yard”

  1. Waaaaaaaaay Coooooooool.

    Here’s another little tidbit to add to your thought process:

    Most people are allergic to cat dander (not cat hair). If you feed them cat food that has a low ash content, it makes for low dander.

    I’m just sayin’…..

    1. Thanks for the tip, Laurie – I had never heard that before! Another item for the “pro” list… 🙂

  2. Oh gosh, Barbara, I wish you luck if you decide to get a cat. I know what it’s like being around cats with a bad allergy to them, as I’ve had that since I was a small child and my mother had a cat. I’ve tried twice in my life to have a cat of my own and each time I’ve ended up in hospital with asthma too bad to be coped with at home. 🙁

    Here’s a site with some info that might help you:

    For me, the worst thing is being scratched by a cat, even by accident. Instant asthma.

    But I know what it is like to miss them (even though I wouldn’t have a cat now even if I could, because of the wild birds..)

    1. Interesting article, thank you… I think I will find the book it mentioned, “The Sneeze-Free Cat Owner” by Diane Morgan. I had no idea references like it were available… Those hairless cats look kind of creepy and Tim definitely vetoed that idea. 🙂

      The suggestion of a light colored female is something I will keep in mind. One of my beloved childhood cats was a white short-haired female with a couple of small black patches…

      It’s kind of funny, but yesterday and today a small bird flew up to our sliding glass doors and perched on the screen, peering in at me as I was eating my breakfast. So now I’m wondering if the birds are weighing in on the discussion with a “please do NOT get two cats!”

      I remember how terribly allergic to cats you are, Val, and my heart goes out to you. Fortunately for me my allergy isn’t that severe, having achy, stuffy sinuses and nasal passages is more of a nuisance to me when compared to what you’ve gone through. Still, I have enough health problems without adding to them…

      1. Generally birds perch on the glass when they sense (or know) that there’s food inside! Ours do, anyway!

        I know the feeling of wanting to have a cat but having reasons coming at you from all quarters that say ‘no’. It’s very hard. As well as my allergies, Bruce isn’t a fan of cats… though of course, there have been a few cats that have warmed his heart (usually the ones that like him and, we all know I think, that most cats sense that a person doesn’t like them and then cozy up to that person deliberately!)

        A couple of decades ago when I was still living at home (yep, I left very late!) there was a white cat that got itself stuck in our empty coal cellars and it was scared stiff of me as a lot of animals don’t like my high-pitched voice. But my dad, who had a fairly deep voice, was able to draw it out. It was a curious thing to watch.

        I’m sure you’ll find an answer that will be right for you.

        1. Maybe I’ll put a little dish of bird seed out for the little bird… though he hasn’t been back since the first two visits.

          Fortunately for me Tim loves cats and he is often the one who murmurs that he misses having a cat to pet while he’s sitting on the couch…

          I do love how cats are selectively aloof or unpredicatbly affectionate or responsive… I would have loved watching your dad coax the unfortunate cat out of the coal cellar!

  3. Oh, I had cats for so long. After the death of our last cat, my husband has refused to consider another. We have a little dog, but really, he is not the same as a cat. I miss having a purring ball of warm fur around, too.
    And love that song, too!

    1. We discovered just how many people love “Our House” when we went to a Crosby Stills Nash & Young concert in 2008. When they started singing it a huge number of couples, including us, started hugging each other and saying “awwww….” There weren’t too many dry eyes in the audience!

      I think the next time your husband wants to buy a cow you need to put your foot down and demand that a new cat comes to live with you at the same time!!!

  4. It sounds like you are being really thoughtful–I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.

    An aside–As a dog person, I’m surprised that the researcher didn’t find a similar link for dogs.

    1. We were wondering why the difference, too, Sheryl. I’m not much of a dog person, although we had a beloved little Sheltie when I was a child. I’m afraid of the dogs any bigger than that, which is why I love watching The Dog Whisperer on TV…

  5. Full disclosure: I’m a dog person.
    I’m visiting a friend in Santa Barbara this weekend and her cat who has always – I mean always – run away any time I got close to him, has been allowing me to walk past him and last night while I was watching TV on the bed he jumped up and wanted to sit with me.

    1. You’re lucky to have a new feline friend, Rosie! I wonder what made the cat change his mind about you? Most cats are very selective about their choice of friends! 🙂

  6. When I heard that you love cats, but couldn’t have any in your home due to allergies, I really felt sad for you. To me, a house is not a home without a cat or two in residence. I thought about what I’d do, if faced with your predicament, and all I could think of was, I’d find a way around the problem!

    You know I feed the wild birds in my garden, and my old cat stays indoors, so isn’t a threat to them at all. As for my younger cat, the birds know she is around, and when they hear the tinkle of the bell on her collar they fly up onto the clothesline, and wait until she has gone. They seem to have a mutual understanding!

    I had not heard about what Tim has been through, and based on the research you have found, I think you have even more reason to find a way of bringing two little kittens into your home. What is your heart telling you to do?

    1. Our hearts are definitely telling us to find a way around the problem! 🙂 I like your idea of bells on the cat collars.

      Tim & I were talking about the heart-cat connection again and noticed something interesting about his family. His maternal grandmother and great-grandmother died of heart attacks in their early 50s. The cardiologist said there is a genetic risk factor at work here. But weighing some of the other risk factors we noticed something:

      Tim, the oldest of 6 brothers, had his heart attack at age 54, was not a smoker, but had a poor diet and didn’t own a cat. Brother #3 had his heart attack at age 52, had a good diet, but was a smoker and didn’t own a cat. Brother #2, however, didn’t have his heart attack until age 57. Remarkably he was a smoker AND had a poor diet, but he does live with several cats!

      So the theory proves true in this limited sample – and even if owning cats will only add a few years to Tim’s life, and make those years more enjoyable for him, each year would be a precious gift and worth a little sneezing and congestion to me!

  7. Good luck determining about petting a cat, and feeding a cat, and cuddling a cat… We’ve had both cats and dogs. Our first two pets were dogs and our last three were cats. We’re actually glad to be animal-free, but both species resulted in years of companionship. Can’t wait to see what you decide, Barbara!

    1. There is a lot to be said for being animal-free and I have enjoyed not having the added responsibility and the stuffy head. That’s why we’re weighing the pros and cons and requiring ourselves to take some time making this decision. I also think that since the kids have moved so far away it might be nice having a slighly bigger “family” around… 🙂

  8. I can’t imagine my life without cats in it … have four right now … two sets of brothers … and they are such a joy. Fortunately, I don’t have any allergy related to them. I hope there is some way you can have one or more cats again, Barbara. They are such splendid creatures, somehow both predictable and full of surprises. All my cats stay indoors … and have splendid ‘kitty TV’ watching all the birds and other critters in the garden. I instinctively believe that being connected to animals or nature can have a beneficial effect on a person’s health. Prayers for Tim to defy the odds. Thanks for sharing that beautiful painting!

    1. You are so fortunate to have four cats in your world, Diane! We’re hoping to get two siblings from the same litter – there are two of “us” and it would be nice to have two of “them” so they can keep each other company while we’re out and about. I miss watching cats watch other things! 🙂 Thank you for your prayers – I feel lucky to have Tim around still – every day is a treasured blessing, and I know having a couple of cats underfoot again would be the icing on the cake!

  9. I adore cats – the stunning disgust of those inscrutable icons make each and every one of them a work of art.

    One of our family cats – a long-haired calico named Pandora – was found by a co-worker of my father’s in the grill of his car. Father took her home and she was a crafty, stalking joy for 16 years. She once crawled onto my lap and decided to stay there for nearly an hour. I knew better than to move.

    Now, I am cat-less. My apartment has a strict no-pet policy – a problem I really have no way of getting around!

    1. I do understand why landlords have no-pet policies – some tenants are not responsible or clean pet owners and there is no way to tell which ones are or aren’t. Sigh… You have my sympathy on being cat-less! I didn’t realize how much I was missing them the past twelve years, although Tim was certainly mentioning missing them quite often… Pandora sounds like a regal queen – you were lucky to have her for so many years! I never had a calico before – tiger stripes are what we usually wind up with, be they grey or butterscotch in color! 🙂

    1. They sure do, countless hours of joy and laughter – it’s no wonder cats are good for the heart! “The Sneeze-Free Cat Owner” has finally arrived in the mail – I’m falling in love with the Siberian Cat or Russian Forest Cat, which seems to be naturally hypoallergenic. But we’ve never had to buy a cat before!

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