Last Updated on: September 8, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Those of us who are diehard cat lovers already have a good idea of how cats help us. When you have a cat in your life, you know how it feels when your cat looks at you with those big, beautiful eyes and makes that rumbling purr.
Cats can literally make you feel better after a difficult day just by cuddling on your lap and making biscuits on your tummy.
I can say without any hesitation that my cat helped me and my son immensely during the COVID-19 lockdown. She continues to be a source of good — in addition to the occasional bit of naughtiness!
The ways that cats benefit humans are even backed by science, so if you haven’t yet been converted into the world of cat people, read on!
How Cats Help Humans: The Scientific Research
Enhanced General Well-Being
Many studies have been conducted over the years proving how beneficial cats are to humans. In a 2015 Australian study,1 it was determined that cat owners were more psychologically healthy than people without pets. Cat owners were found to have fewer sleep issues and less anxiety and depression and were generally happier and more confident.
Yet another study showed that cats can improve our bad mood and reduce negative emotions,2 including not feeling as lonely. Also, single people with cats were less likely to be in a bad mood compared to people with a cat and a significant other.
Perhaps this comes as no surprise, but it has been found that people who watch online cat videos feel fewer negative emotions, such as frustration, stress, and sadness.3 They also experienced more positive emotions and felt happier and more content and generally upbeat. Some people felt a little guilty, however, if they watched those videos as a form of procrastination!
Cat owners tend to have more positive relationships with other people, particularly other cat people. In fact, those positive feelings can lead to a greater ability to express compassion toward others.
It was even found in a 2017 Scottish study that children with strong and positive relationships with their friends also had a strong attachment to their cats.
This supports the point of cat owners gaining a greater sense of well-being due to their relationship with their cats. If a person has a strong sense of self-worth, they will project that onto others.
Hearing your cat purr and watching them sleep is one of the most relaxing things that you can experience.
I find it quite comforting when I see my cat relaxed and happy. Her inherent trust in me gives me that all-important feeling of self-worth. I must be doing something right to have the honor of my cat’s love and trust.
This 2002 study examined married couples and whether their cats had any effect on their stress levels. They were put through several stress tests while hooked up to a monitor that tracked their heart rate and blood pressure with their cat in the same room. They also tested couples without pets.
The cat owners fared better after testing their resting heart rate and blood pressure, as well as after the stress tests, than the pet-less couples.
Part of this is literally due to a cat’s purr, which is shown to decrease stress and possibly lower blood pressure through the sound and vibrations of their purring.
Cats can provide various health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and less anxiety. We all know how stress can impact our mental and physical well-being. There’s also an improvement in heart health, which means less risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cats can even aid in reducing the risk of allergies. That sounds unbelievable, but it’s been shown that if children are exposed to cats within their first year, their immune systems will help protect them from developing almost any allergy later in life.
Cats also help reduce loneliness by giving us the best kind of companionship. Whether you’re single or not, you can benefit from the kind of unconditional love that only a pet can provide.
Getting Through Lockdown With Cats
Rigid scientific research will never fully explain how much we love our cats and their positive impact on our lives. It’s challenging to measure emotions and living creatures.
My personal experience with my cat and lockdown illustrates the importance of pets. My son is an adult with autism spectrum disorder, and he also has depression. He’d gotten his first job but was laid off after only 5 months because of the pandemic.
I can honestly say that this was probably one of the most challenging times in our lives, particularly for him. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Bella (our cat) is what got him through. Just knowing that she was always there and how much she loved him was enough for my son to start feeling better.
To this day, when he becomes despondent because things aren’t going his way, I only need to bring Bella to him and talk about how much she loves him for my son to cheer up. I believe that she has actually saved his life.
There are countless stories from other cat owners with similar experiences. Pet cats have essentially become therapy cats for many of us — on their own terms, of course.
If you’re already a converted cat lover, you probably aren’t surprised by most of the information here.
Not every cat is sweet and cuddly — cats are like people, with plenty of diversity! But whether a cat is sweet and a bit needy or independent and slightly grumpy, they love us, and looking after a feline is something that we all need to do with love and a healthy dose of respect.
My cat is on the less-cuddly side. She loves me and my son — there’s no doubt about that! — but she loves us on her own terms, which means no lap time, no cuddling, and no being picked up and held. That’s okay! She’s her own cat with her own way of doing things.
I’ll always be grateful to have her in my and my son’s life. She’s helped us get through every obstacle in the past six years that we’ve had her. I’m willing to bet that the same can be said for all of you!
Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!