We all know that cats are good at making us smile, but how does this translate to our overall health? Research has found that our cat companions can lead to an increase in serotonin and dopamine—the same neurotransmitters that make us feel good after exercising or being out in nature.
It’s not just cats, either. People who own pets are reportedly happier and healthier because of them. Animals, like dogs and cats, are experts in reading our non-verbal communication better than many of our human companions, making them keenly aware of our shifts in moods and behaviors. For some of us, though, cats may be more ideal to welcome into our homes because they are smaller and have little to no breed-restrictions on them when it comes to living in apartments or renting homes. Rest assured, though, because our feline friends have an incredible effect on our mental health.
The production of serotonin and dopamine not only helps you feel good, but it also helps lower our stress levels by increasing the production of oxytocin, which is associated with bonding and empathy. This decrease in stress is particularly important when you consider what stress does to the human body. Doctors have found evidence that high levels of stress can actually change your brain—and while it's not known if cats can help reverse these changes, they certainly seem like they're capable of helping prevent it.
In one study, it was found that simply petting a cat could help lower the amount of cortisol – a stress producing hormone. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed out, let them spend some time, happily purring on your lap while you give them a few extra chin scratches.
Cats are incredibly unique when it comes to cat and human bonds. Some cats are more independent while others are cuddlier and more playful. Because of their individuality, they set a more realistic example of interactions.
One article explained how people with anxiety can learn emotional regulation just from petting their cats and trying to get them to purr. Being around cats can further benefit those with anxiety by lowering their heart rate and blood pressure.
Cats, and pet ownership in general, tend to make people happier and reduce symptoms of depression. Not only does caring for a cat provide you with a sense of purpose, but a long-time companion. Cats don’t care about what your hobbies are or who you’re friends with, so having a positive relationship with a cat or another companion animal can reduce feelings of loneliness. Plus, they’re great role models for self-care!
Cats have been a large part of human lives for thousands of years and its little wonder why. Their soft fur and calming purring all have positive effects on not only our mental health, but physical health as well. If you’re looking to add a kitty to your home, consider adopting an adult cat from your local shelter. Adult cats have established personalities and don’t need as much supervision as a young cat or kitten might. If you’re already feeling stressed or burnt out in other areas of your life, this is more reason to adopt an older cat!
Many domesticated cats live stress-free lives. If they’re indoor-only, then most of their days are probably spent sleeping by a window, knowing when and where their next meal will come from, and getting lots of pets and scratches (on their terms, of course).
However, cats benefit greatly from enrichment and they need it to live a happy, fulfilling life! We're diving into what enrichment looks like for cats and what things you can start to do now to make their lives more enriching.
Cats can be emotional support animals (ESA) to their human companions and many people see tremendous benefits of having a cat (or other animal as an ESA).
There are several things to be mindful of when getting your cat registered as an ESA, including the differences between an ESA and service animal, and how to make it official.