The presence of pets has been associated with reduction of stress and blood pressure and therefore may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Relative risks (RR) of all deaths, death due to myocardial infarction (MI), cardiovascular diseases (MI or stroke), and stroke during a 20 year follow-up were determined by Cox proportional hazards analysis for categories of cat or dog ownership among participants after adjustment for potential confounding variables.
Previous or present use of cats as domestic pets was reported by 2435 (55%) of the 4435 participants. After adjustment for differences in age, gender, ethnicity/race, systolic blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, serum cholesterol, and body mass index, a significantly lower RR for death due to MI was observed in participants with past cat ownership (RR, 0.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.44 to 0.88) compared with those without cats as pet at any time. There was also a trend for decreased risk for death due to cardiovascular diseases among participants with past cat ownership (RR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.55 to 1.0).
A decreased risk for death due to MI and all cardiovascular diseases (including stroke) was observed among persons with cats. Acquisition of cats as domestic pets may represent a novel strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in high-risk individuals.