People may avert the risk of heart attack and strokes by having a cat as a pet, suggests a study.
Minnesota University researchers, who carried out the study, have found that owning a cat can reduce a person's likelihood of having heart attacks and strokes by more than a third.
Professor Adnan Qureshi, lead researcher, said that his team looked at 4,435 adults aged between 30 and 75, about half of whom owned a cat.
While presenting the study's findings at a stroke conference in America, he said that 3.4 per cent of the cat owners died from a heart attack over 10 years.
Professor Qureshi further said that the death rate from heart attacks was 5.8 per cent among the group who had never owned a cat.
He expressed surprise at the strength of the effect that owning a cat appeared to have on the risk of heart attack and strokes.
"The logical explanation may be that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
As to why owning a cat reduces this risk, Professor Qureshi says that stroking the pet perhaps reduces the level of stress-related hormones in the blood, which in turn lowers blood pressure and the heart, and thereby prevents heart disease.