🐈 Cat therapy – myth or reality

When you think of your feline companion, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s good for you emotionally. And while they don’t always have a positive impact on our furniture or clothes, cats have a huge positive impact on our mental health and beyond: increased immunity for children growing up next to a cat, lower incidence of heart disease, lower stress levels… the list is long.

Studies from all over the world also scientifically support what we – intuitively – also perceived: the company of cats is a real help in everyday life, and even more so for people with mental disorders or conditions such as depression or anxiety.

We’ve summarised for you below the 10 most important mental health benefits that come with furry friends:

Cat therapy – mental health benefits

Purr-purr-purr / tors therapy

Did you know that the sound cats make – the one we all call “cat purr” – has healing properties? For thousands of years, cultures around the world have practiced “sound therapy” as a form of holistic medicine. Studies have confirmed that the sound cats make when they purr falls between 25 – 240 Hz, which happens to be the frequency known to speed up the healing process of wounds, broken bones and tendon and joint injuries. Some people report that their cats also help relieve migraines.

Cat purring also causes the release of endorphins in cats and could do the same for us humans. The release of endorphins reduces stress and blood pressure, which can improve not only our well-being but also our physical health.

Supports recovery from psychological trauma and mental illness

It’s no surprise to animal lovers that furry friends can have an extremely positive impact on our mental health. Pet therapy has proven to be particularly helpful when it comes to recovering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Cats are often used as therapy animals in hospitals, physiotherapy sessions, long-term care facilities and other medical institutions to help patients recover physically, mentally and emotionally. It is also known and confirmed that interactions with cats are extremely helpful for children with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and other cognitive disorders by promoting positive social interactions.

Cats reduce stress and improve well-being

Name one feeling that surpasses the satisfaction you get when a cat sits in your arms and chooses to spend time with you! In addition to the level of satisfaction, studies have shown that cats have a calming and stress-reducing effect, so cat owners are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

In fact, their stress-reducing methods are so powerful that simply watching cat videos can significantly improve our mood. It’s hard to look at a happy cat and feel stressed!

Their carefree, undeterred attitudes help put all the stress in our lives into perspective.

Reduce anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health conditions worldwide, and access to mental health services can be difficult for many reasons. Spending time with our cats can significantly reduce anxiety by simply providing a distraction from our negative thoughts, giving us a moment of relaxation away from our daily thoughts.

In general, cat owners reported feeling less anxious, stressed and lonely when they are around their cats, as opposed to how they feel when they are away from them. Not only can our cats provide physical comforts such as purring, cuddling and ‘kneading of the muffins’, but they also entertain us with their different and funny natures, giving us an extra reason to get up in the morning.

Banish loneliness

Cats offer unconditional love and affection. Their presence and ability to provide comfort can alleviate feelings of isolation or loneliness. Cats are capable of developing strong emotional bonds with their owners. This emotional connection can provide emotional support in difficult times and strengthen the sense of closeness and belonging.

Helps build healthy habits / Reminder for self-care:

Caring for another being can improve the ways we care for ourselves. On those days when life knocks us down and we just don’t feel like we can cope, our cats give us a reason to get out of bed. Whether we wake up with them on our chests, with their tails up our noses, or because of a loud meow, not a morning goes by that cats don’t remind us that it’s time to wake up and fill their bowl. Cats have a special way of keeping us afloat.

Caring for a cat requires some responsibility, including feeding, cleaning and giving attention. This can create a routine which, in turn, can contribute to better personal organisation and increased confidence in your ability to manage responsibilities.

Soothing sleep, restful sleep / Light nights

Studies have shown that our cats help us rest better. Owners who have allowed pets to sleep in their bed (or in the same room) have said that it was easier for them to fall asleep. Cat owners specifically indicated that wake up fewer times during the night and that including cats in their bedtime routine reduced feelings of restlessness and fatigue.

Did you know that when your cat wakes you up, it’s not always because she’s hungry or needs attention, but because she wants to make sure you’re okay? Cats are not deep sleepers like us humans, so when they notice we haven’t moved for a while, this is their way of checking if we’re okay.

Improve interpersonal skills

Despite the pros from the dog camp, studies have shown that cat owners may have better skills overall. While dog owners reported being more dominant at base, cat owners tended to be more sensitive, more outgoing, scoring higher on intelligence tests, and more trusting of others.

These traits can carry over from our relationships with our four-legged friends to those with our peers.

Helps self-esteem

The results of a survey highlighted that cat owners tend to be more sensitive and open-minded compared to those who do not own a pet. They also seemed to have a higher sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

Caring for someone other than ourselves can give us a sense of fulfilment and confidence. The more confident we feel in our abilities, the more confident we become in ourselves.

Cats - good for the development of the little ones

Cats have a positive effect on people, regardless of their age. So it would be a shame not to mention some of the benefits they can bring to the little ones. There is evidence to suggest that cats have a positive effect on children’s development. Owning a pet provides children with many positive experiences, such as: a playmate, companionship and the opportunity to learn responsibility (from an early age).

It has been found that children who own cats or pet dogs are more sociable than children who own other pets. Theoretically, children learn certain skills from caring for pets (e.g. feeding) and interacting with them. These include learning a pet’s gestures (for example, whether a cat wants to play or be left alone) and interpreting the pet’s behaviour, which is also useful in interactions with one’s peers.

Conclusions

In conclusion, the relationship between cats and mental health is a complex and beneficial one. The presence of a cat in a person’s life can bring many benefits to their mental well-being. The gentle company of a cat can reduce stress and anxiety levels, contributing to a relaxed atmosphere in the home.

However, it is important to understand that everyone has different needs and preferences, and the mental health benefits of cats can vary. Overall, however, the special bond between people and cats can be a wonderful source of joy and emotional support in everyday life.

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