Last updated at 14:21 19 March 2008
Having a cat around the house could cut your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by almost half.
Scientists said owning and stroking a purring feline may reduce stress and anxiety, and so protect against cardiovascular disease. They found even those who no longer owned a cat benefited from these protective effects.
The researchers from the University of Minnesota, looked at nearly 4,500 adults aged between 30 and 75 and found that cat owners had a 40 per cent lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack.
But the authors warned against people rushing out to buy a new pet. They said while moggies may have a calming effect, it was unclear whether the kind of people who opted for a cat in the first place may have a lower risk of heart attack.
Heart disease is Britain's biggest killer. Every year, about 270,000 people suffer a heart attack.
The study, led by Professor Adnan Qureshi, factored in other heart disease risk factors including smoking and diabetes. The findings were unveiled at the International Stroke Conference.