Children who have pet cats are more able to understand medical procedures such as X-rays, injections and surgery, research shows.
A study carried out in 2009 by health psychologist Dr June McNicholas showed that children aged between six and seven have a better understanding of health and illness if their families own a cat.
The research project, carried out for charity Cats Protection, found that:
• 78 per cent of cat owning children understood surgery, compared with just 37 per cent of non-cat owning children
• 79 per cent of cat owning children understood X-Rays, compared with 61 per cent of non-cat owning children
• 66 per cent of cat owning children understood injections and vaccinations, compared with 41 per cent of non-cat owning children. The findings also showed that children who live in households with cats have a better knowledge of healthy eating and the importance of exercise.
Dr McNicholas said: “These results show that children who have cats gain a much greater awareness of health issues, often gained through their involvement in cat care routines including visits to the vet surgery.
“For many children, the health treatment of a pet cat may be more thoroughly explained to them than any treatment they, or a close family member, may receive from human medics.
“It goes to show that cats have a very valuable role in teaching children important health lessons which will stay with them for life.”
Director of Veterinary Services for Cats Protection, Maggie Roberts BVM&S MRCVS, said: “These results are fascinating and show that not only do cats provide great companionship for children, they also help children understand very important issues.
“By tagging along when a family cat is taken to the vets, children are exposed to medical issues which they otherwise may be sheltered from if the patient were human.
“Most vets recognise the strong bonds between children and their pet cats and will take time and care to explain the reasons behind procedures such as vaccinations and neutering.”
Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity, helping over 230,000 cats and kittens every year through its national network of 257 volunteer-run branches and 30 adoption centres.
To find out more about the work of Cats Protection, please visit www.cats.org.uk or telephone the charity’s national Helpline on 03000 12 12 12.