By Janet McAfee

Easy to live with, mystical and engaging felines provide people with countless amusement and companionship.  Now we are also discovering they play an important role in keeping us healthy and adding years to our lifespan.

These intelligent, independent creatures help us during the times we are most in need.  My friend, Christine Gross, experienced tragedy when her husband John died suddenly on May 9, 2014.  Another friend suggested she adopt a cat to help her during the grieving process. Chris had dogs in the past, but never before owned a cat.  In her charming English accent, she explains, “I didn’t even like cats!  I thought all they ever did was eat and poop (she used another word!)”

Chris describes her impression of cats before and after adopting Verity, “I never liked cats at all.  Growing up in England, my mother never liked them and she told us stories of her cat who went missing and then snarled and hissed when it returned.  After John died, I had a house full of friends and family for the first month.  But I was dreading the first night when I would be on my own with the stillness and quiet in the house.  I dreaded being alone for the first time in many years.”


“I’d had dogs before, and liked them a lot.  When a friend suggested we go get a cat from a shelter, I almost recoiled, but she kept on talking and I kept on listening.  My friend mentioned that a cat is the perfect pet if I planned to travel, and can easily stay with a friend or relative.  She also pointed out I would have to walk a dog no matter what the weather.  John told me that if he went first, he wanted me to travel and enjoy life.  John was also a cat lover, and he owned several before we got married.  I ended up in a place I never expected, at the Seal Beach animal shelter cat adoption section.  We looked at the kittens, but a volunteer suggested an older cat would be calmer and its personality already formed.  The volunteer showed us a beautiful 6-yr-old Snowshoe.  Originally adopted as a 2-yr-old, the cat’s owner died and she animal ended up back at the shelter.”

“That first night, Verity made herself at home, and slept next to me, seeming to know I needed the comfort.  She does such funny things that I thought were unique, like pushing little things around the floor and then running up on a perch to look down on them.  She’ll sit on my lap, but then turn her back on me when she’s mad.  She runs like mad around the living room, making me laugh at her antics.  One day she was missing, and when I opened a kitchen drawer she was inside staring up at me.  How did she ever get in there?”

“Having a cat is so much easier than I imagined.  I was concerned about cat box odor, but I just scoop it first thing every morning and sprinkle Arm and Hammer over it.  There is no smell at all.  When I travel, she easily goes to a friend. The upkeep is easy, I use a dust buster every few days and there is no cat hair in my house. I see my neighbor outside in the winter rain and summer heat walking his dog, and know I made the right choice.”

“Verity is a Godsend.  This past week I was sick with the flu, and she’s laid on the bed the entire time.  Once I recovered, she returned to her favorite spot up in the closet where she keeps an eye on me.  Soon she’ll join me at my desk and walk around the computer, sticking out her paw trying to type a word and make me laugh.  I look forward to returning home, knowing she’s there to greet me.  When I talk to Verity, there is no silence.  I absolutely love her.”

Science discovered another reason why cats keep us healthy and happy.  Cats create purr vibrations with a range of 20 to 40 Hz, which is medically therapeutic for many illnesses.  Their purring lowers stress, reduces the chance of heart attacks, strengthens bones, and reduces the symptoms of dyspnea.  Their loving companionship provides respite from loneliness, depression, and other psychological ailments.

If you are a family with young children, a furry family member brings them a lower risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, and strengthens their immune system.  Elderly heart attack patients who own a cat have a longer survival rate.  Knowing that the companionship of a cat brings years to your life, one insurance company gives bonus points to elderly life insurance applicants with pets.

Run don’t walk to the nearest shelter, and save the life of a homeless cat who will pay you back with years of good health.  Adoptable felines wait for homes at our county shelter in Thousand Palms, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus,, (760) 343-3644.  Private cat rescues include Kittyland SPCA at (760) 251-2700 and Mary Ewing at Loving All Animals (760) 834-7000.   Like Christine Gross learned from Verity, anyone can become a “cat lover”, a club with open membership and many rewards.

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