The Atlantic

Cats Are Not Medicine

Pets don’t actually make people healthier, according to a new analysis. Ability to own a pet does.
Source: AFP / Getty

Kids who grow up in homes with cats are much less likely to have behavioral issues than kids who grow up in homes without cats.

This is according to a divisive statistical analysis thrust upon the world this week by scientists at the RAND corporation. Pro-pet research findings like this have been piling up since the 1980s. The results have ranged from less heart disease among pet owners to better rates of survival after heart attacks to a reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis among kids who had been exposed to pet allergens as infants.

Over the decades there has come to be a sort of implicit consensus that pet ownership had benefits for human health. That is, it seemed that these correlations weren’t coincidental. In a 2005 literature in the journal , a team of clinicians concluded it’s likely that “pet ownership itself is the primary cause of the reported benefits,” since “no studies have found significant social or economic differences between people who do or do not have pets that would adequately explain [these] differences in health.”

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