Ten Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Cat: How our Feline Friends Can Make Us Happier and Healthier

Animals can have an amazing impact on our state of mind. In light of Bell’s Let’s Talk Day 2023, we think it’s only fitting to talk about how cats can benefit our mental health. From the crankiest of cats to the friendliest of felines, cats have a way of providing us with companionship, love, laughs, and comfort. And while they might not always be great for our furniture, studies have shown that cats are in fact, great for our emotional well-being.

From improving our mood and helping us sleep to soothing us with their healing purrs and stress-reducing ways, here are 10 ways cats help benefit our mental health.

  1. Cat Purrs Have Therapeutic Effects

Did you know that car purrs have healing properties? For thousands of years, cultures around the world have practiced “sound therapy” as a form of holistic medicine. Studies have confirmed that purring 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 swear their cat’s purring aids in relieving migraines, too!

Purring also causes the release of endorphins in cats and might just do the same for us humans. Endorphins lower stress and blood pressure, which can not only improve our mental well-being but our physical health as well.

  1. Improve our Mood & Reduce Stress

There’s nothing better than the feeling of a warm, soft, loaf of cat nestled snugly on your lap. Studies have shown that cats have a calming, stress-reducing impact on our health, and that cat owners are up to 30% less likely to experience heart diseases. In fact, their stress-reducing ways are so powerful that simply watching videos of cats can significantly elevate our mood. It’s hard to look at a happy cat and feel stressed!

  1. Reduce Feelings of Anxiety

Anxiety and depression are two of the most commonly experienced mental health conditions worldwide, and access to mental health support services can be challenging for many reasons. Being in the company of our cats can make us feel less alone and provide us with a sense of comfort and friendship. Holding, petting, snuggling, or just sitting together with our cats can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety simply by offering a distraction from our overbearing thoughts, even if just for a moment.

  1. Provide Companionship & Reduce Feelings of Loneliness

Although dog people will swear up and down that canines make superior companions, cat lovers know there’s no friendship like feline friendship. Cats provide us with a sense of companionship and can improve our mood simply by being around. They tend to be lower maintenance than dogs yet offer us the same love, affection, and friendship.

  1. They Help us Build Healthier Habits & Serve as a Reminder of Self-Care

Caring for another living thing can improve the ways in which we care for ourselves. On those days when life has got you down and you just don’t feel like you can do it, our cats give us a reason to get up and out of bed. Whether they wake you with a gentle nudge, persistent meow, or coughing up a hairball in the middle of your bed, nary a morning goes by that your cat won’t remind you it’s time to get up and fill their bowl. It’s safe to say that cats have a special way of keeping us on track.

 

  1. Support Recovery from Psychological Trauma & Mental Illness

It comes as no surprise to animal lovers that pets can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on our mental health. Pet Therapy has proven to be especially helpful when it comes to recovering from conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, and anxiety. Cats are often employed as therapy animals in hospitals, physiotherapy sessions, long-term care facilities, and other medical settings to help patients recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. Cats have also been known to be exceptionally helpful with children with Autism, ADHD, and other cognitive conditions by promoting positive social interactions.

  1. Improve Quality of Sleep

They don’t call them “cat naps” for nothing! Studies have shown that having your cat close by results in a better night’s sleep. Owners who allowed their pets to sleep in their bed (or in the same room on their own bed) said they had an easier time both falling and staying asleep. But here’s where cats seem to outshine their canine companions – Cat owners specifically indicated waking fewer times throughout the night and having reduced feelings of restlessness and fatigue.

Fun Fact! Want to know why your cat wakes you up in the morning?

*hint* it’s not because they’re hungry! (well, maybe just a little)

Cats are light sleepers by nature, whereas people tend to settle in and sleep for several hours straight. So, when your cat notices you haven’t really moved in a while, they tend to get a little concerned and want to make sure all is well with their sleepy human counterparts.

  1. Offer a Calming Presence

As cat lovers have come to know all too well, felines can be quite…. aloof. Their carefree, unbothered attitudes help put all the stress in our lives into perspective. Their calming ways can help reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 30% and they never cease to entertain us with their feline antics.

In general, cat owners reported feeling less anxious, stressed, and lonely when in the presence of their cats as opposed to being away from them. Not only can our cats provide up with physical comforts like purrs, cuddles, and affectionate kneading, but they also entertain us with their funny feline ways and give us a reason to get up in the morning (lest you forget their breakfast!).

  1. Help Improve our Relationship Skills

Despite arguments from the dog-people camp, studies have shown that cat owners may have better people skills overall. While dog owners reported being more dominant in nature, cat owners tend to be on the sensitive side. Cat owners also appeared to be more open-minded, scored higher on intelligence tests, and were more trusting of others. These traits can carry over from relationships with our four-legged friends to those with our fellow humans.

  1. Boost our Self-Esteem

Just as cat owners reported being sensitive and open-minded, they also seemed to have a higher sense of self-esteem and self-worth than non-pet owners. Caring for someone other than ourselves gives us a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and confidence. The more confident we feel in our abilities, the better we tend to feel about ourselves overall.

And while dogs tend to like just about everyone, cats can be a little choosey when it comes to deciding which people are worthy of their affection. Knowing a cat likes you and having them seek out your attention might just be one of the best feelings around!

– Cait Challenger

Content Writer, Veterinary Assistant, Pet Nutritionist

References

https://www.catonsvillecatclinic.com/holmes-corner/the-psychological-benefits-of-owning-a-cat/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_backed_benefits_of_being_a_cat_lover#:~:text=According%20to%20one%20Australian%20study,problems%20in%20their%20lives%20better

https://www.purrfectpost.com/healing-purrs-how-your-cat-can-help-you-heal/#:~:text=Purring%20releases%20endorphins%20in%20cats,between%2025%20and%20140%20Hz

https://www.science.org/content/article/cat-people-are-smarter-dog-people#:~:text=Researchers%20examining%20the%20differences%20between,prefer%20to%20follow%20the%20rules