Why Cats are Good For Your Mental Health

By Rachel Hughes, MBA

If you needed another reason to celebrate your cat or adopt your first one, then you’ve come to the right place. Cats are good for the soul. They make us feel good and give us a reason to get up every day. Our cats not only hold a special place in our hearts, but they also have wonderful benefits for our mental health. Cats can make us more positive, help give us a purpose, help us get better sleep and reduce stress/anxiety.

Who doesn’t smile watching a video of a cat? YouTube is full of them. You get stuck in a loop of cat videos for hours and you probably can’t stop watching them if you are anything like me. Indiana University Bloomington conducted a study1 with over 7,000 people, which found that viewers’ energy and positive emotions increased while watching different cat videos on the internet. Takeaway? It is good for your mental health to watch videos of cats if you don’t overdo it. Though is there really such a thing?

Individuals that struggle with mental illness can benefit from having an animal to take care of. Cats can be especially low maintenance, but still rely on their humans to provide food, water, and attention. 2This can help motivate individuals to get out of bed, start their day and decreases the chance of isolation. Cats can help to build up our self esteem and allow for improved mental health.

If you talk to your friends, family, or coworkers, I guarantee one of them will tell you they aren’t getting enough sleep or a good night’s sleep. Sleep is one of the most crucial factors in self-care, especially if you struggle with mental illness. A study done by the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine shows that 341% of people stated they slept better because of their animal. So next time you wonder if all the fur on the bed is really worth it, it absolutely is! Sharing your bed with your cat helps you relax as you go to sleep and can help ease anxiety.

There isn’t anyone that couldn’t benefit from reducing their stress and anxiety. Cats can trigger the release of calming chemicals in your body, which will lower your stress and anxiety levels. According to Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, 4“The act of petting your cat releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone or “cuddle chemical”, which can make us feel less stressed”. So, when you’re stressed out and need to take a break, go cuddle with your cat.

The benefits of owning a cat are exceptional. Cats Protection UK and the Mental Health Foundation published a survey in 2011 that 5questioned 600 cat-owning and non-cat owning respondents, half of which responded to having current mental health problems. 87% of people that owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their well-being and 76% felt they coped with everyday life much better due to the presence of their cats. Cats give us security with just their presence and have an unconditional love for their humans. This allows for humans to have a strong bond with their cats.

Increased positivity, purpose, a good night’s sleep, and less stress/anxiety are only some of the incredible health benefits that our cats bless us with. If these reasons convinced you that you need your own fur baby in your life, visit your local shelter to adopt your very own. If you already have a cat, give them some cuddles to thank them for helping keep us mentally well and being our biggest support.

1 IU Bloomington Newsroom. (n.d.). Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, IU study finds. IU Bloomington Newsroom. https://archive.news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/06/internet-cat-video-research.shtml.

2 Modkat. (2018, December 30). 7 ways cats can improve your mental health. Modkat. https://modkat.com/blogs/modkat-purrr/7-ways-cats-can-improve-your-mental-health.

3 Krahn, L. E., Tovar, M. D., & Miller, B. (2015). Are Pets in the Bedroom a Problem? Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 90(12), 1663–1665. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.012

4 Heiser, C. (2018, April 11). Forget what you’ve heard. Being a cat lady Is healthy. NBCNews.com. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/forget-what-you-ve-heard-being-cat-lady-healthy-ncna789676.

5 What are the mental health benefits of cat ownership? Open Access Government. (2020, January 30). https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/mental-health-benefits/70873/.

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