This just in from the Medical Journal of Australia: A study of 5,700 patients at a Melbourne hospital showed those who kept a pet had significantly lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels than those who did not. Lower stress levels, too.
Trying to account for the reason behind this theory that pets lower their owners' stress levels, the study's research director Dr. Warwick Anderson suggested: "Pets put some order in your life."
Reading this I thought: How true. How very, very true. Why, if it weren't for my own cats, Max and Fluffy, there would be no order at all in my life. For instance, instead of arising early each morning when they stage a cat fight outside my bedroom door or break a vase downstairs, I'd probably sleep until 6 or 6:30 in the morning.
And I have little doubt that the rest of my morning would be totally without order were not Max and Fluffy around to beg for -- and then refuse -- breakfast offering after breakfast offering.
But what a joy to finally open the can of cat food that is exactly what they'd been waiting for and to see their little mouths twitch in pleasure as they claw my lower legs. And then to . . .
Excuse me for a second.
Get off that cashmere sweater, Max! Your brother was there first and you know he hates it when you try to sit on top of him!
Let's see. Where were we? Oh, yes. Cats are particularly helpful in lowering stress levels because cats, unlike dogs, feel no need to be trained to walk beside you or not to jump on you or to come when they're called. Therefore, cats do not trigger guilt feelings in their owners when they are disobedient. Cats are always disobedient.
Cats are like great novels: They cannot be summoned to appear; they come when they're ready. And not a minute sooner.
Given this definition, Fluffy is the Tolstoy of cats when it comes to taking his own sweet time to answer one's call. On freezing, rainy days, he particularly enjoys having someone hold the back door open for 10 minutes or so while he makes up his mind to enter or exit. Then . . .
Pardon me again.
And just where do you think you're going with that chicken breast? Drop it, I say. Drop it this instant, Fluffy!
But getting back to cats and lowered stress levels, it's really all a matter of cunning. The experienced cat owner knows, for instance, that cats are very finicky about food. But I say the quick-witted cat owner can always best the quick-witted cat.
Take, for example, my solution to Max's incredibly picky approach to food.
After noticing that when I'm not around, Max will eventually eat whatever is on his plate, I devised the following ingenious plan: I put the food in his dish and go through the motions of leaving the house. Next I call out in a normal voice, "Goodbye, Max. I'm going to work now. Have a nice day." Then I exit through the kitchen door and stand outside for about 30 minutes before coming back in.
It works every time. Although I think Max may be catching on since the other day he . . .
One moment, por favor.
You are walking a fine line now, Max. If you know what's good for you, you'll stop swinging on those curtains right now!
Some people say they would never have cats because cats are nocturnal creatures and will just keep you up all night with their antics. And if you wanted to be kept awake why not bite the bullet and have children?
I must admit there is some truth to this observation. Sometimes at night, for example, I hear Max and Fluffy running around the house, skidding on rugs, banging into walls and jumping with loud thumps from the top of the refrigerator to the floor.
But I found that setting limits eliminates a lot of the potential for friction. Once I close my bedroom door, I don't cross that threshold again until early morning. So, I am pleased to report, no problemo there anymore.
Oh, no you don't, Mister! That sofa leg is not a scratching post. That $50 scratching post over there is a scratching post.
By the way, I once read an article by someone who theorized that cats came here from outer space. Apparently, they didn't like the planet they inhabited so they got into their kitty spaceships and searched the universe until they found a perfect world: Earth. It was perfect because the inhabitants of Earth showed a predilection for spoiling felines -- plying them with special foods, cute little cat toys and letting them sleep all day.
Sometimes when I'm walking up and down the alleys behind my house I study the neighborhood cats, searching for signs of extraterrestrial life. But the Catz 'N the Hood only stare back, as ,, mysterious and inscrutable as ever.