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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Japan now has Cat Cafe's



Cat cafés are huge in Japan right now. As the name suggests, these are coffee shops where cat lovers go to sip overpriced lattes and hang out with an adorable smoosh pile of kitties. In the past five years, exactly 79 such cafés have popped up all over Japan. What’s weird is that the café cats aren’t expensive pedigreed felines like Persians or those other ones with the funny bendy ears, they’re just the everyday mixed breeds you might find in the back lot of your local supermarket, cats who, in the immortal words of Brian Setzer, “slink down the alley, looking for a fight/Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night.” Likewise, in the past few years, there’s been an explosion of photo books and DVDs featuring average-joe cats. If people are so fascinated by what are essentially domesticated alley cats, why don’t they just swoop one up from the legions of strays all over Japan and take them home? I’ll tell you why: because landlords in Japan are dicks.

Thirty-eight-year-old Norimasa Hanada, the owner of Neko no mise (Shop of Cats), Tokyo’s first-ever cat café, explains the problem: “Most Japanese rental apartments prohibit pets. The only ones that allow them are condominium apartments for families. This means that young, single-dwelling workers in their 20s and 30s can’t even think about getting any pets, despite the fact that they’re stressed out and are seeking comfort and companionship of some kind.”

It makes sense, then, that most cat-café fans are relatively young. More than 30 customers shuffled into and out of Neko no mise during the four hours I recently spent there, and apart from one lady in her 50s, all the other patrons were in their 20s or 30s (most of them female, with only three guys spotted the entire time). Another contributing factor to the cat-café trend is that Japanese people are chronically shy, to the extent that many can’t even hold a decent conversation about the weather with a stranger. The wordless, tactile communication of kitty cats is a great source of comfort for these high-strung, antisocial urbanites.

At Neko no mise, a few sofas, chairs, and tables were scattered throughout the café, which emanated a relaxing, feminine atmosphere complete with soft music. One wall was lined with a bookshelf full of hundreds of manga books. Apparently there are 14 resident cats at Neko no mise, and because it’s winter in Tokyo right now, most were huddled under the kotatsu (a traditional Japanese low table with an electric heater on the underside). Since the cats are obviously the kings of the café (and they know it), they seemed more arrogant than I’m used to. Some of them were skittish and jumped around every time a new person came in or walked out. I got the impression that unless you’re willing to stay for the long haul, befriending a café cat is trickier than desired, especially for an establishment that makes money off the illusion that patrons will be guaranteed some pussy lovin’.

There are a few different types of cat-café customers. Newcomers will be so swept up in the distinct atmosphere that they will just sit there stunned. It looked as if most of them had never had a pet cat or even touched one before and it seemed like they were struggling to come to terms with the unpredictable behavior of real cats while their fantasies of docile, purring balls of love were being shot to hell. In an hour’s stay, most could only manage to touch a passing cat just once. Many customers seemed like the shy, meek, silent type who were in need of a hug or two. Since these sorts don’t have the courage to go up to a cat and play with it themselves, they would read a book and sip coffee while they patiently hoped for a cat to come closer. It broke my heart.

Those who came in groups were generally cheerful and talked a lot, using the café as a place to catch up with friends. The cat factor was a bonus for them, and they grabbed the cat toys lying around and played with the cats quite successfully. The couples that I saw were either in new relationships or were still in the friendship stage, and were using the cats to bridge the awkward distance between them.

While I sipped my coffee in a room full of cats and cat groupies, I could slowly feel the soothing effects of the kitty café wash over me. Before I knew it, I was smiling for no reason and was so at ease that my eyes started to droop in a sort of happy stupor. Others must have been feeling the same numbing effects because occasionally the room full of people would fall silent as they stared at the cats’ every move.

Most customers stayed for at least one hour, but apparently some fanatics can last more than six hours. Norimasa told me that “while the average stay is an hour and a half, some regulars take a sick day from work and stay all day. They say that they’re about to buckle under the stress of their workload and need some time out. Some regulars come four or five times a week, while those who have become so mentally drained from work that they have taken an extended leave from their jobs come every day, seeking comfort and healing.”

Cat cafés generally charge a time-based fee. Neko no mise charges $1.50 every ten minutes ($9 an hour), and $21.50 for a special three-hour plan. Might sound like they’re overcharging, but maintaining a clean, dreamy cat environment ain’t cheap. The only way for cat cafés to survive is for them to maintain a high turnover rate and keep away the cheapskates who will otherwise undoubtedly stay for hours on end, nursing a single cup of coffee. Sadly, this also means that the regulars who stay for six hours end up paying more than $42 just to stroke some fur.

There’s a Japanese legend that says that cats become popular every time there’s a recession in this country, and it’s true that there’s been a huge boom in cat and cat-related-merchandise sales these past few years. Something about those pointy ears and tiny paws has a calming effect on the human mind. Or perhaps it’s the traditional Japanese culture of forcing people to behave like herds of sheep and act appropriately by carefully judging the vibe of every situation (what the Japanese literally call “reading the air”) that makes the independent, freedom-loving cat the perfect target of obsession. I know I’m making this all sound pretty sad, but like most cute things, it’s best not to think about it too much. Just stare into the hypnotizing eyes of the pretty kitties and let your troubles fall away. Purr.

Left: Emiko, 22, works in fashion
Right: Yoko, 23, housewife
Vice: Do you come here often?
 It’s my first time.
Yoko: It’s my second time. The first time I came was six months ago.

Why did you decide to stop by today?
 I love cats but I can’t get my own, so I thought I’d hang out with them here.

How did you find out about this café?
 You can see it from the platform of the train station nearby.

What do you do at a cat café?
 I just stare at the cats the whole time. Watching them makes me feel relaxed. If they happen to come near me, that’s even better.
Kayoko, 32, kindergarten teacher

Vice: Are you a regular here?
 I first visited three weeks ago, and since then I’ve been coming here every week. I’m completely hooked.

You sound like a devoted fan. How did you discover this place?I ride the Yokohama Line train a lot, and one day I saw a glimpse of the café’s interior while I was passing through. If you tiptoe you can see people playing with the cats from the train. I checked out their blog and it looked like a nice café, so I invited a friend to come with me and we found that it was a really friendly place. Now I come alone, like a lot of customers here. Chatting with other people is part of the fun.

It looked like the cat you were playing with earlier was scolded by one of the staff. What did he do?I saw him grab a stick of sugar from the table with his mouth and run, so I told one of the staff. I had heard they’re not allowed to do that. So he ended up getting scolded… Apparently that was his third time today. Other cats try to lick milk out of the pot that they bring with your coffee. Maybe that’s just their way of saying that they want to play with you.

Left: Masataka, 32, salesperson
Right: Satoko, 36, salesperson
Is this your first visit to a cat café?
 Yes, my boyfriend decided to bring me here today.
Masataka: I’ve been here a few times.

What’s your impression of the place?
It’s great, there are a lot more types of cats than I expected.

How long are you planning to stay today?
Probably about three hours.

Do you own any cats yourself?
Satoko: There are quite a few strays in my neighborhood but it’s difficult to touch them because they’re so aloof.

Are you a cat person?
Yes, definitely.
Satoko: My parents own a dog so I’m not biased. I like all animals.

What sort of cat behavior makes you happy?
 When it rubs up against me and is generally friendly.
Masataka: When it plays with me. Or better yet, when it sits on my lap.
Botan (female) has the strange tendency to suck on her younger brother’s dick, which she mistakes for her mother’s nipple. As a result, her brother can’t help pissing all over the place.

Customers can buy snacks to feed the cats for 300 yen (about $3.50). Nishin (male) gets his nails did.

Megumi, 33, office worker

Vice: Is this your first time at a place like this?
 No, it’s my second.

Where do you live?I came from Hokkaido, which sounds awfully far away but I was scheduled to come to Tokyo anyway, so I thought I’d drop by. I always try to come here whenever I’m in Tokyo.

Wow, Hokkaido? That’s a plane ride away from Tokyo. Are there any cat cafés in Hokkaido at all?Yes, I’ve been to it. It’s probably the only one that exists there right now.

Do you feel like each cat café has its own vibe?Yes. I’ve been to a different one in Tokyo too, but from my experience I think that the cats here aren’t as afraid of strangers as they are at the other cafés and they play with you more. Maybe they’re not as stressed out because it’s a little more spacious here.

Do you own any cats yourself?I had two cats but they both died. The second one passed away last week, actually. He was 18 years old.

Sorry to hear that… What do you like about this particular café?I check the café’s blog regularly because the owner always writes so much about what’s happening here. That’s part of the appeal.

How long are you planning to stay today?Probably two or three hours. I’m kind of surprised how crowded it is today, though. I didn’t expect that.

What exactly do you do for so many hours?Mainly stare at the cats and play with them. I love it when they jump on my lap. Last time some of the cats sat on my lap, but I’m not so lucky today.
Nakatsuka, 39, office worker

Vice: What do you do when you’re at a cat café?
I mainly shoot photos of the cats. This is the only time that I ever take photos, really. I come to take a bunch of cat photos, and that’s it. I don’t even read.

So you’re saying that you own that expensive-looking camera just so that you can take pictures of cats?Yes, I bought this camera after I started coming here on a regular basis. Until then, I didn’t really care how the photos came out or what type of camera I used, but after shooting for a while I gradually felt an urge to use a better camera.

How often do you come here?Once a week.

And where do you live?In Saitama prefecture. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to get here.

How long do you usually stay?About six hours, so I guess I use up a whole day. Sometimes I even take a paid day off work just to come.

So including the commute, that means each visit takes about nine hours! Have you always liked cats?Yes, I’ve always loved animals. We had a pet cat when I was little, but now I live alone and can’t really own one myself, which is why I come here. Just looking at them makes me feel at ease.

Is there anything the cats do that make you extra happy?I love it when I’m playing with a cat using a cat toy, and the cat grabs my knee with its paws.
Pocky (female). Who’s a pretty?

Shiratama (female). Usually quiet, this one likes being stroked and doesn’t run away.
Did you enjoy that article? Sure you did. Now you should check out: 

How to Win Territorial Battles With Your Cat

Whose House Is This, Anyway?

How to Win Territorial Battles With Your Cat

Win-win Solution

Anyone who has spent a bit of time around cats knows that they're pretty independent critters. Cats have certain ingrained needs and the only way to peacefully coexist with one is to understand those needs and adapt your surroundings to achieve a win-win situation for you and the feline in question. Going head-to-head with a stubborn cat can provide an unwelcome lesson in humility. The challenge, then, is to teach your cat that there are places certain activities are not allowed, and to show him where he isallowed to satisfy those essential needs.
Take clawing, for instance. Cats don't claw to be bratty or intentionally destructive. Their claws are an essential part of their defense system, and they need to scratch (furniture, trees, whatever) to loosen the sheaths on their claws to allow the fresh new (sharp) claw to emerge. To protect your furniture, you need to offer a more attractive clawing surface. Scratching posts are ideal for this, and when rubbed with a bit of catnip, are usually irresistible to cats. Sisal-wrapped posts are generally preferred by discriminating cats to the carpeted variety. A scratching post need not cost an arm and a leg. You can even build a pretty sturdy one yourself, or create one from a tree limb or log if you happen to have one.
Providing an irresistible substitute is the first step. Discouraging kitty from clawing your brocade furniture is next. There are a number of substances cats dislike intensely, and their odiferous presence on or near an object is a pretty good deterrant to a cat.
Whether your territorial issues with your cat arise over clawing, chewing house plants, or using your garden for an outdoor litter box, these substances used in combination or alone, can be the answer to your territorial battles with kitty.
Experiment with these:
  • Citrus
    Cats generally hate the scent of citrus. Try spraying a citrus-scented room freshener around your cat's favorite "scratching-chair," or coarsely chop citrus peel and sprinkle it just under the perimeter of the chair. It can also be used in the soil around potted plants if your cat tends to make salad from them.
  • Red Pepper Spray
    Never spray this on your cat. However, if kitty is using your flower bed for an outdoor litter box, you can spray the soil around the plants. Chances are, he'll avoid that area in the future.
  • Bitter Apple
    Doesn't the name alone make your mouth pucker? It's said to be a great deterrant to plant chewing.
  • Aluminum foil, plastic carpet protectors
    Cats avoid either the sound or the feeling of these on their feet. Strategically placed, they can discourage kitty from trespassing where he is not allowed. (The carpet protector is placed upside-down so the knobby area is on top.)
  • Commercial Preparations
    Many of these are more suitable for outdoors, and should be tested in an inconspicuous place before using in the house. You may find the odor objectionable in some of these.

  • The Cats forum boasts a number of cat lovers who combine their experiences and feline know-how to present a rich assortment of suggestions for countering behavior problems. Here is just a small sampling of solutions offered by forum members:
    Problem: Cat chewing electrical cords 
    Solution: "There is help out there. There is a product specifically designed to hide and cover external electrical wiring. It will work for electrical cords also. It is a long rectangular tube. The cover snaps or bends in place. You can permanently affix it to the wall with either nails screws or sticky two-sided tape. Once the tube is in place just put the cord inside and closes it. You will have 99% of the cord covered. There is the side benefit that you don't have to look at the unsightly cords anymore. Try asking at your local hardware or electrical supplies store." 
    From Merav3

    Problem: Cat jumping on stove and counter 
    Solution: "Last night I filled some pop cans with pennies, and strung them together like a garland. I set them up on the edge of my counter top and at 1 AM I awoke to a loud crash and scurrying...When I came out to check, poor Kismet had this look of terror on his face and the cans were on the floor. I hated to scare him so, but if this works, maybe he will stay away from the stove too." 

    Problem: Cat chewing, digging in house plants 
    Solution: "I put large shells on top of the dirt of my plant. (The kind you "hear the ocean in"). That worked great as they were a little too heavy for the cats to scratch out easily. One of my kittens used to use the flower pot as a litter box! The shell cover stopped that. I also sprayed the leaves with Bitter Apple, which did help also. Cats seem to need some plant matter/grass in their diet, so I would carry them outside to chew some grass from time to time. (In the wild, they chomp on grass routinely). I also used to tear off pieces of grass and bring it inside for them to chew on. They gather round and chow down!" 
    From GalensGranny

    One of the most frustrating as well as one of the the most enjoyable parts of sharing your home and your life with a cat is the ongoing challenge to keep ahead of him. Just when you think you've won, he pops up with another new trick.

By , Guide


Preparing for the Euthanasia Decision for Your Cat

Knowing When to Let Go

Preparing for the Euthanasia Decision for Your Cat

Letting go of your feline companion is never easy. Often just the thought of it brings panic. Unfortunately, though, your cat will probably die before you do and you may even have to make the decision to help him or her to die. Death is a difficult subject for many people, but avoiding the topic isn't helpful to you or your cat.
Cats, particularly indoor cats, are now living longer than they have in past years. There are also so many advances in veterinary care that many cats develop chronic health problems that can be handled with treatments at home, such as administering fluids under the skin. Doing different treatments at home may seem difficult at first, but the staff at your veterinarian's office can usually instruct you so that you feel more comfortable with it. Treatments for some diseases, such as radiation or chemotherapy, can't be done at home, are expensive, and have greater risks and side effects.

Plan Ahead for the Euthanasia Decision, if Possible

The time to think about how far you'll want to go with any type of treatment or when you would feel the time is right to euthanize your cat is before he or she becomes ill. Once an illness strikes, we tend to go into crisis mode and our thinking isn't as clear as it is when we're not stressed. The answer to the question of treatment and euthanasia will differ from person to person. One way people have found useful in making these decisions is to ask, "If this was ME in my cat's situation, how much treatment would I want? How much pain and suffering would I be willing to endure if there was even a chance that I'd have a better life? When would I just want to say, 'Enough'?" You may find that you have different boundaries for two of your own animals.
For instance, when my Remi developed congestive heart failure, I knew that because of the type of dog he was, that he would go a long way with treatment before he'd want me to stop. Towards the end of Sheffield's life, however, as his kidney's started to fail, I knew that he wasn't the type who would want to endure subcutaneous fluids and other treatments. It's important to choose a veterinarian that you trust and have a good relationship with. People who do, often find it helpful to listen to the pros and cons that their veterinarian gives them and then say, "And if this was YOUR cat, what would YOU do." Most veterinarians will be very honest with clients about this.

Considering the Cost Factor

Sadly, cost is also often a factor in making a decision. Many people want to help the pet overpopulation problem by adopting a lot of animals. I advise people to consider the costs involved. It's not just the food and litter, but also the veterinary bills, especially as animals get older (although younger animals can develop costly illnesses, also). Veterinarians don't make as much money as you might think when you look at their bills, and they have bills of their own that they have to pay, both business and personal, so very few are able to treat your animal inexpensively or for free. Very few are able to allow you to delay payments, either. It would be nice if there were an easy checklist that you could refer to that would tell you exactly when to let go. Unfortunately, there isn't, but there ARE some guidelines.
Quality of life is an important issue. If you know that your cat is suffering and has no chance of returning to even an adequate level of quality of life, it's time to talk with your veterinarian about euthanasia. If the side effects of a treatment are going to mean that your cat will be very ill from it and there's less than a 50% chance of returning to a good quality of life, you should talk with your veterinarian about whether the treatment is really in the cat's best interest. Again, ask your veterinarian what he or she would do if it was their cat. Sometimes it's hard to let a creature that we love so much leave our life, but once a reasonable level of quality of life is gone, the loving thing to do IS to let go.

How can I support a friend whose cat is dying?

How can I support a friend whose cat is dying?

Question: How can I support a friend whose cat is dying?

I was unable to find guidance on how to support a friend whose pet is dying (or has recently died). I know a few things about deaths of human relatives, but not about pets. My friend, Eileen, has a cat named Hobo, that is terminally ill. What can I do to show her my support? When Hobo dies, how can I comfort her?
That's an excellent question, and I'm surprised no one else has never asked it.
For starters, there isn't a huge amount of difference from comforting a friend over the loss of a cat than for the loss of a human family member. As you are aware, I'm sure, most of us consider our cats as family members, and you wouldn't have asked unless you felt the same way.
I've noticed over the years when a human is terminally ill, or has died, people often make the mistake of saying, "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help." While that may offer some small degree of comfort, it is rarely acted on by the recipient, who may be hesitant to come out and ask for specific ways of helping.
In the case of a pet that is dying, you could couch your offers specifically to meet your friend's needs:
  • Baby-Sit Other Pets
    You might ask if you could care for other pets, so your friend could spend more time with the pet. She may be feeling guilty for ignoring other pets because her sick cat requires so much of her time. Or, she may just appreciate more quality with her sick cat.
  • Offer to do Shopping
    It's common for the pantry to grow bare under these circumstances, because there's no time for shopping, or because the caregiver is reluctant to leave the cat home alone for long. If your friend is shy about giving you a shopping list, offer to care for the cat while she does errands.
  • Bring a Home-Cooked Meal
    It's likely that Eileen rarely takes the time to prepare her own meals because she's concentrating on caring for Hobo. Unless you and your friend visit back-and-forth regularly, call first to see when it convenient to drop the food by.
  • "Can I Drive you to the Vet Clinic?"
    Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

    If the pet is still alive but very close to terminal, you could ask if he/she would like you to come along for support when the time comes. She probably won't be fit to drive safely herself, and will appreciate the comfort, and the shoulder to cry on." I'll never forget my neighbor's kindness in driving us when I had to take that last rush trip to the vet with my dying Shannon.

Talk to Your Friend About her Cat

Most important of all, talk to your friend. Many times, people are holding in all sorts of fears, anger, and guilt that maybe they aren't doing enough for their pet. Or if the pet has recently died, that they didn't do enough. Sometimes, all you need to do is listen, and nod; give assurances that he/she was a good pet parent, and did everything possible that could be done. If she had to make the decision to euthanize, there will undoubtedly be guilt feelings over that. In my opinion that decision is the kindest, most loving and selfless decision any of us will have to make for a loved pet, because we're doing it for the pet, not for ourselves. You can use those exact words, if you like. Also tell your friend that it's okay to cry, then do what comes naturally, if the tears start to flow.
Under either circumstances do what you can to focus a conversation on all the good memories around that pet. It's been a few years since I lost my cat Bubba, but fairly soon after he died, our family mantra became, "He was some cat, wasn't he?" which always started a whole string of stories about his antics as a younger cat.
Finally, after the cat has passed away, you may want to honor its memory with a memorial gift. I particularly appreciated "donations in memory" to my favorite cat charity, which I received after the loss of my cats. If you have talents in the arts, a loving memorial would be a special poem, a painting, drawing, or framed photograph would be a thoughtful gift. A friend of mine composed a memorial song dedicated to my Shannon when he passed away, and it brought both smiles, tears, and happy memories. (Still does.)
It is very kind of you to want to support your friend. I hope some of what I've written will help.
By , Guide


How Pets Help Us

The Human-Animal Bond

How Pets Help Us

The human-animal bond is good for both species!
Getty Images News - David Paul Morris/Stringer
We love our pets. That is why we have them, right? Did you know that there are actual health benefits for people living with pets? Studies have shown real health benefits - lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced stress levels, and better mental health for those living with pets.
Pets require our attention. Going for a walk, dropping everything for agame of Frisbee or hide and seek, going on a trail ride, and providing the everyday pet care encourage owners interact and to get out. We benefit from the exercise and fresh air that we may not seek out on our own. This does wonders for our health and emotions.
In addition to being a major health benefit just for being a pet, pets also actively help and assist humans in many ways. Below are just some of the ways that pets are formally helping humans live richer and fuller lives.
Pet Therapy
Pet therapy is something I have been involved with since an early age, and I have witnessed the the health effects; both for those receiving therapy and those who bring in their animals to hospitals and nursing homes. To see a nursing home patient light up when they see you and your dog or cat (or other approved therapy species) come through the door is an unforgettable experience. It is not uncommon for the nursing staff to remark that the patient hasn't spoken for some time or only speaks to some people - yet totally relaxes, talks to, and interacts with your pet. A current trend in nursing homes is to adopt a cat or small dog to live in the facility. This is a wonderful experience for the residents on a daily basis.
Hospitals, and children's hospitals in particular, usually allow pet therapy visits too, with amazing benefits for the sick and terminally ill. There are also pet therapy animals helping autistic humans interact and live fuller lives.
To get involved in pet therapy, please refer to some of the links below. There are national and local organizations. It is best to be affiliated with a therapy organization, as there are health and temperament requirements that need to be met by the pet therapists before visiting health care facilities.
Horse Therapy
Horses and horse riding is also part of pet therapy. Riding horses teaches balance and flexibility to the handicapped, and gives a sense of accomplishment and companionship to those involved. Some programs are related to the care of horses as well, teaching responsibility and horsemanship skills.
Service Dogs
Dogs are amazingly adaptable to the needs of humans. Services provided by dogs for humans include: dogs that guide the blind, assist the deaf, assist the mobility-impaired, even alert epileptic owners that a seizure is imminent, so the owner can sit down/take their medications before the seizure strikes. Dogs can be trained to turn on/off lights, pick up objects, even pull wheel chairs for those who are handicapped.
Police and Search & Rescue Dogs
Police dogs serve as protection for officers, as well as sniffing out drugs, explosives, and other dangerous chemicals long before a human can. Search and Rescue dogs use their powerful sense of smell to locate people lost or injured.
Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

How Owning a Dog or Cat Can Reduce Stress

How Owning a Dog or Cat Can Reduce Stress

The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

When thinking of ways to reduce stress in life, usually techniques likemeditationyoga and journaling come to mind. These are great techniques, to be sure. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits. While human friends provide great social support and come with some fabulous benefits, this article focuses on the benefits of furry friends: cats and dogs! Research shows that, unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits—perhaps more than people! Here are more health benefits of pets:

Stress and Health Benefits: Pets are our 'best friends' for a reason!
Pets Can Improve Your Mood:
For those who love animals, it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to one study, men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.)
Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:
Yes, it’s true. While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a recent study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!
Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise:
Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we havecompanionship, dog owners do spend more time walking than non-pet owners, at least if we live in an urban setting. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.
Pets Can Help With Social Support:
When we’re out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunityto increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.
Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! All these benefits can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from people.
Pets Can Reduce Stress—Sometimes More Than People:
While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also a good listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better! Recent researchshows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.)
It’s important to realize that owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Pets do come with additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own stress. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough.
Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and Depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.
Siegel JM, Angulo FJ, Detels R, Wesch J, Mullen A. AIDS diagnosis and depression in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: the ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care. April 1999.

Source of story:

Cat Therapy for Autistic Children

Cat Therapy for Autistic Children

A True Story of the Miracle a Cat Brought to an Autistic Boy

Guide's Note

Cats are slowly moving into their own as therapy animals, and are being used in convalescent homes and other institutions for that purpose. However, though a lot has been written about the use of horses and dogs with autistic children, little, if anything, has been previously written about cats. This amazing true story may open your eyes to the possibilities of cats' usefulness as therapy for autistic children.

I'm a widowed dad with a daughter and son. My son lives with autism. That's how we got into cats. Long before he was born, I entered the field of neuroscience and worked with children who have neuropsychological disabilities. Little did I know that my chosen career would come in handy at home. When my son was four and my daughter nine, my wife died very unexpectedly. I was left alone with a little girl and boy. The little boy lived with autism.

Picture of Boy with Cat
Photo Credit: © iStock Photo/Daniel Bobrowsky
For those who may not know, autism is a communication disorder. The more severe cases often have a co-morbid mental retardation. Fortunately, Richard does not have mental retardation. He does have the communication difficulties that people with autism face everyday. At the age of four he was still non-verbal. I remembered that in one of my books I had read something about a girl with autism who had been brought out of her inner world through her relationship with horses. I decided, why not. Let’s give it a try.
I took Richard to every possible place where he could encounter and be close to animals. He never expressed any interest. Then one day, we visited the local animal shelter. I had grown up with dogs. My mother was psychologically allergic to cats. She was one of those people who believed that cats were loners and had no personality. So, I walked past the cat room into the dog area. Again, I was disappointed that my son just stared around him at everything else, but not at the dogs. They seemed to hold his attention for a few seconds.
As we were leaving, once again we walked past the cat area doors. I figured, “What the heck? It’s worth a try. Though I have no idea what he’ll find interesting in there.” We walked into the cat area, which was significantly smaller than the dog area. As we walked past the cages, there in a corner was a black and white tuxedo cat. Suddenly my four-year old non-verbal son pointed to the cage and said, “Cat!” That was it. That day we took the cat home. My son could not come up with a name for his new friend. My daughter, who has always been very protective of her younger brother tried to help find a name that he could pronounce. Finally, the name Clover was discovered.
From day one, we heard Richard having conversations with Clover when no one was looking. He had language. He needed someone with the patience to listen and who did not ask him to repeat himself or explain what he meant. Clover had all those qualities. Later we added Tigger to our family. This time Richard named him, another breakthrough.
Richard is now 19 and in college. Tigger and Clover were older when they came to us. Now they are in Kitty Heaven. But Linus and Melody have joined our family. They are five-years old and have been with us since they were kittens. They did homework with Richard while he was in high school. To this day I believe that they can do algebra and chemistry better than he can. We laugh about this at home.
Richard is majoring in art and Linus is his major critic. He sits quietly by him when he’s drawing or working on a project, just as he did while he was working on algebra and chemistry. I still swear that I hear them talk about lighting and perspective. Melody doesn't stay behind either. She can't wait for him to finish a project to take a peek. While Linus coaches, Melody waits patiently in another room and comes in to vocally check out the finished product.
Thanks to the bond between our feline relatives and us, Richard has friends, attends college and is not ashamed of having autism. He once told me that he believed all cats have autism, because “Cats are like me. They look at everything and think about it when everyone thinks they’re not paying attention and they only talk when they have something to say.Im not an animal psychologist, but I do know one thing . . . life has been a blessing since we discovered
"And the Lord God made them all"
Author's Disclaimer:
I would caution that I don't know if pets improve the life of all children with autism. However, there is a great deal of anecdotal material out there, including books, of people with autism whose lives have been enriched by domesticated animals such as cats, dogs and horses. I have known a little boy with autism who is a very different person when he is with his dog. I have strong suspicion that there is some correlation.

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