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Critter Corner: Does Caring for a Pet Lower Your Dementia Risk?

Dear Angel,
 
Happy National Cat Month! I am forever thankful for my cats and feel like every month should celebrate our feline friends. I read an article that  said that adults who care for dogs are significantly less likely to develop dementia. Is this the same for cat parents too? 
 
Thanks!
 
Kat Luvver
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Dear Kat,

Thank you for your kind wishes during National Cat Month, the best month of the year because it’s also Christmas time! There are many reasons to love cats (and even dogs, I guess!) The research you’re referring to reveals the paw-sitive health benefits of dogs for the human brain.

The study was published in the December edition of Preventive Medicine Reports. It reveals that dog owners over the age of 65 were 40% less likely to develop dementia!

Another study, from last year, suggests that both cats and dogs may help to keep the aging brain in good working order.

Study Shows Cats and Dogs Help Prevent Cognitive Decline
 

In the 2022 study, presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting in Seattle, researchers looked at 1,369 older men and women. At the study’s start, all were free of dementia or serious memory problems, and their average age was 65. More than half had a pet, and about a third had owned a pet for at least five years.

Participants underwent simple tests of memory and thinking skills. Over the next six years, cognitive scores of the older men and women tended to go down. But memory and thinking skills fell at a slower rate among the pet owners, especially those who had owned a pet for at least five years.

Why Pets Are Good for Cognitive Health

As anyone who loves a cat or dog or other pet knows, pets provide companionship and can be great stress relievers. A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health. Getting out and about with a dog also increases interaction with other pet owners, and social interaction has been tied to a lower Alzheimer’s risk.

A growing number of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care facilities across the country are accepting specially trained dogs and cats as part of pet therapy programs. A visit from a therapy animal has been shown to ease agitation, boost mood and promote social interaction in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you or a loved one don’t already have a cat (or a dog), you should consider adopting one!

Purrs,

Angel

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.