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4 brilliant ways cats are secretly helping their owners live healthier lives.

So ... cats are basically magic. And this can be proven. With science.

4 brilliant ways cats are secretly helping their owners live healthier lives.

Cats.

The Internet loves 'em. You probably have a family member that has at least 20 of them and maybe sends you cat photos every day. If you don't have that family member, then you probably are that family member (just a heads up).

Anyway, most folks agree that cats are pretty amazing. But here's the thing: There's more to cats than videos of them hanging out in boxes or memes about having a cheeseburger. In fact, cats can do so much more than entertain the Internet.



"I'm just a kitten on the Internet tryna have a good time."

FACT #1: Cats can help you live longer.

It's true! And before you go off to your local shelter to adopt a zillion of them in hopes of becoming some kind of immortal cat-themed super-villain, let's put our protective safety goggles on and dig into some science facts. (And then we can talk about adopting cats and/or villainy!)

I mean, we were all thinking about Catwoman here, right?

How does this work? Well, cat purrs actually promote healing.

We all know what cat purrs are, although veterinarians aren't entirely sure what the deal is them — and no, that's not a setup for a Jerry Seinfeld-style joke.

I am so, so sorry.

They really aren't sure why cats purr. Some suggest cats do it when they're content, which makes sense. But they also purr when they're injured or scared, which probably means they aren't content. Like, at all.

But ... what's the science?

FACT #2: Those cute cat purrs exist in a super-special vibration range that has the potential to be medically therapeutic.

Your average house cat's purr has a frequency between 25 and 150 hertz. That's interesting because that's also the frequency at which muscles and bones are able to best repair themselves. So cats might be self-healing.

But that's not all: Those super-special, super-adorable cat purr vibrations also exist at a frequency that's good for humans too. Purr The Scientific American, these vibrations are well within "medically therapeutic" range (25-150 hertz). And it's not just one study either. There are several that have found that the pattern of cat purrs as well as their sound frequency can actually help both cats and humans.

What does this mean?

Uh, well, that your purring cat can help with bone and muscle repair, pain relief, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and so. Much. More.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

FACT #3: Owning a cat may mean less stress in your life.

Well, unless your cat likes to jump out and scare you (like mine).

My cat hiding in a paper bag. Because why not?

But science says that in studies about pet owners versus non-pet owners, folks who owned cats had significantly fewer stress symptoms. Dog owners were #2 in low stress. And in last place? People without any pets.

Here's the kicker: Owning a pet (cats and dogs) in general reduced stress-related blood pressure more than medication designed specifically to do that (aka ACE inhibitors).

Now, having way lower stress because of an adorable little fuzzball in your life is actually a really big deal health-wise because...

FACT #4: Cats can reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack! By 40%!

The University of Minnesota found that owning a cat might actually be good for your heart, and not just in an "Oh my gosh, I am just so overwhelmed with love for this animal!" kind of heart-stuff way.

In their study, they found that folks who did not own a cat were 40% more likely to have a heart attack and had a 30% higher chance of dying from heart disease than cat owners did. Which is just like ... what?!

So, why is this? Well, researchers at the University of Minnesota said this:

"If we assume that cat ownership is directly responsible for the benefits, then the most logical explanation may be that cat ownership may relieve stress and anxiety and subsequently reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases."

See? Less stress, less anxiety = fewer heart and blood pressure issues. Also, probably more tripping over cat toys at two in the morning, but I couldn't find anything about that in the study. Oops.

Another fact: Correlation doesn't always equal causation...

... as my former stats professor would say.

Yes, studies have found that cats can reduce stress, the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, and even potentially give you some purr therapy. But that doesn't mean that you should quit your job and hang out in a cave with some cats to live forever.

In fact, these findings could say more about the lifestyles of the average cat owner than the mystical powers cats have over the human body.

Still, these studies are pretty compelling. And hey, if that means I can go around telling people that cats are actually magic, then I'm totally down, y'all.


That cat is performing magic behind me, obviously.

So, yeah. Cats? Adorable little monsters who just want your love and also can heal you (maybe). And now for the infographic to prove it, just in case all this wordsmithin' isn't enough and you need some fun visuals to really get the point across.


Aww, yes, that information looks even better in infographic form.

But you know what's better than infographics?

Adopting a cat from your local shelter!

According to the ASPCA, 7.6 million animals are put in shelters every year, and of those, 3.4 million are cats. It gets worse because an astonishing 1.4 million cats are euthanized. That means around 37% of cats in shelters are adopted ... while 41% are put down.

So there are wonderful adoptable cats out there, just waiting for your love and time and attention. Actually, there are a ton of them, so if you can, you should totally adopt. And in return? They'll possibly use their magical healing powers on you ... and love you. A lot. And there's nothing better than that.

If you can't adopt right now, you can always foster a cat. Or volunteer some of your time at your local animal shelter. Who knows, if you stay there long enough, maybe you too will become immortal.

Hey, it's worth a shot, right?

via KTLA 5 / YouTube

A little after 7:30 on Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Sheriffs received multiple reports about a herd of cows running through the streets of Pico Rivera, a city 11 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

This Twitter video does a perfect job of encapsulating the surprise residents felt when they saw 40 cows running through their quiet suburban neighborhood.

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via KTLA 5 / YouTube

A little after 7:30 on Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Sheriffs received multiple reports about a herd of cows running through the streets of Pico Rivera, a city 11 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

This Twitter video does a perfect job of encapsulating the surprise residents felt when they saw 40 cows running through their quiet suburban neighborhood.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."