Not that we needed an excuse to spend more time snuggling with our cats, but now it's a scientifically proven fact that extra cuddle time is beneficial to a cat's health.
A recent study published in the journal Preventative Veterinary Medicine suggests that cats who are pet more frequently are healthier—and the longer you snuggle, the greater the health benefits.
The study involved 96 shelter cats. Half of the cats had positive interactions with the same person for 10 minutes at a time, four times a day, for 10 days. The other half was subjected to the super-cruel act (in our opinion) of a researcher standing in front of the cage with their eyes averted (as in, the opposite of cuddles) for the same duration of time. Fun fact: the group that interacted with the cats was allowed to pet, brush, and play, a process that the researchers called "gentling."
The results were surprising—the group that interacted with the researchers maintained their happy dispositions over the course of the study and were less likely to get sick. On the other hand, the fuzzy felines that didn't receive any love were less content and more likely to be sick at the end of the study.
Seventeen of the 49 cats in the group that didn't receive positive interaction developed upper respiratory disorders, whereas only 9 of the 47 cats in the gentling group developed breathing problems.
The study ultimately found that the cats' contentment stimulates the production of an antibody which helped them fight off upper respiratory disorders. That may seem super-specific, but the researchers disagree—Professor Clive J.C. Phillips of the University of Queensland said, "We have learned that the domestic cat is very responsive to good treatment by humans."
So if you want your beloved furball to be happier and healthier, a little more "gentling" every day might just do the trick.