Cats and cuddles, a favourite pastime for cat lovers, but how much do felines benefit from this special contact with the owner? We know everything about dogs starting from the correct way to stroke them to their signs of affection. Conversely, our independent and charming cats are a mystery from this point of view. However, a recent study published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine could provide us more information about this.


The study of shelter cats

To undertake this study, researchers recruited 96 shelter cats and divided them in two groups. The first group were cuddled, groomed, played with or stroked by one person for 10 minutes, four times a week, for 10 days – a behaviour described as Gentling. The second group had minimal physical contact, instead a researcher stood in front of their cage with their eyes averted for the same periods of time. All the felines involved in this research started the study from a position of equality – perfect health, and absence of any signs of anxiety – however there was a marked difference between the two groups by the end of experiment. In fact, the cats that had been cuddled for ten days were not only happier and more satisfied but less prone to respiratory problems, whereas, cats from the group not subjected to Gentling proved to be less happy and of more delicate health. In fact, in this control group 17 out of the 49 cats developed upper respiratory issues following the study in comparison with 9 out of the 47 cats from the other group.


Conclusions: ‘therapeutic’ cuddles?

Apparently a feeling of contentment in the felines stimulated the production of antibodies useful in combating disorders of the upper airways. This can be used as a basis for further discussion by the authors of the research, Clive JC Phillips, professor of Animal welfare at the University of Queensland, and Nadine Gourkow, Animal Welfare Consultant, interested in exploring the effects of Gentling. Dogs, cats and other pets may benefit from this ‘caress therapy’, pleasant in most cases, once the respect of the characteristics and needs of our furry friends have been taken in to account.

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