We have long advocated play therapy as a way to prevent–and solve–a host of feline behavior problems, as well as a part of indoor enrichment for your cat’s mental and physical health. Now there’s another reason–longevity! In a fascinating article, ABC News ponders the question:

“How could play — defined as “apparently purposeless activity that’s fun to do and pleasurable” — be vital for grim survival in such an often random and dangerous world?

– And not just play in childhood, but throughout life.

– And throughout life not only in humans but in all sorts of animals, including hungry polar bears, chained sled dogs, rats, cats, otters, migratory birds, and, just maybe – yes – ants.”

It turns out that animals who play have the upper hand when it comes to survival in the wild. Researchers specifically studied polar bears, but their findings apply across the board.

“Play keeps minds and brains flexible,” says Stuart Brown, Stuart Brown, author of “Play — How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.” He is also one of the founders of modern play behavior studies.

There is a growing body of evidence that an innate impulse and ability to play has been favored by evolution in many species. It seems to help animals survive longer and reproduce more. And it’s not only true of play among the members of the same species, but the invitation to play seem able to cross species lines. In humans, experiencing a “play deficit” at any age appears to be associated with anything from chronic depression to mass murder.

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