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Benefits of Cats

How your new furry friend can help improve your mental health

Written by Megan Mullaly

Have you ever watched a cat curl up on your lap and began to feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Now imagine having that to look forward to after a long day of classes. If you are a dog person, you might not understand what us cat people find so appealing about the pet. I will admit, my cat can be a little freak, but that does not change how much happiness she brings me.


While cats have a reputation to be uptight and snooty (a conspiracy driven by the dog people), research has shown that cats provide a number of benefits for a person’s mental health.


For example, I got a cat in October 2020 during the first completely-remote semester of Cleveland State University’s classes. I had moved into an apartment before the fall semester and quickly realized how much I missed my family cat at home. Throughout August and September, I spent most of my time going for walks or doing homework outside. As the weather cooled towards the end of September, I found myself stuck indoors and experiencing those quarantine blues.

In fact, cats provide much more than companionship.

I started browsing the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL)’s website and would obsess over every other cat. While every cat popped out to me, one kitten — Silkworm-9c — stood out the most. She was a tiny 2-month-old black kitten, and one of the only cats with a description.


It said, “Silkworm is a gentle kitten that loves being held. She can be playful and energetic but also quiet and calm once her energy is spent.”


I was in love. I bookmarked her page and could not stop visiting it. If the page stalled while loading, my heart dropped because I was sure she had been adopted. After three days of trying to talk myself out of adopting a cat, an ad popped up on the APL’s website stating that during the next three days, kittens were $50 instead of the normal $125.


I caved. I completed the adoption form, Amazon Prime’d everything I needed and picked her up the next day.


Maybe I should have considered why she was on sale, because this cat was definitely defective.


As soon as she was out of the carrier, she chased her tail until she was so dizzy she ran into the wall, hit her head and laid on her back for the next two minutes, completely out of breath.

Obviously, a cat is not going to solve all your problems, but they may be able to relieve some of the unnecessary stress in your life.

Even though she is the dumbest cat I have ever seen, it is amazing how much she has impacted my mental health. With classes remote due to COVID-19, it had gotten boring sitting alone in my room all day. Having a kitten to run around my room during classes or cuddle up with while watching TV provided the companionship I was missing out on during lockdown.


I know the dog people are probably rolling their eyes, but cats are scientifically proven to positively impact a person’s mental health. This became apparent to me after adopting my cat. The feeling of companionship I felt after adopting her was not just me going crazy after months of isolation. In fact, cats provide much more than companionship.


Illness-Healing Purr

Now, I would not count on your cat’s purrs to make your flu go away, but cat purrs have been proven to be therapeutic for humans. A cat’s purr is between 20-140 Hertz, which lowers stress in both the cat and their human. When your stress levels are reduced, your body is able to heal faster, since it is not under additional strain.


Many studies show that cats purr not only when they are happy, but also as a way to rejuvenate pain in muscles in joints. This is one reason why cats are able to fall from so high without displaying the signs of pain another animal would. A cat’s residual purring is able to provide a human with the same benefits it provides the cat. So, next time you have a sprained ankle, skip the urgent care and find yourself a cat to purr on it instead.


Comedic Relief

Another benefit of cats is their ability to provide comedic relief. Not all cats have been trained in the art of comedy, but if yours has, you hit the jackpot. There is nothing better than a cat’s antics to brighten your day. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter provides both short- and long-term benefits.


In the short-term, laughter activates and relieves your stress response, soothes tension and stimulates your organs, which improves their ability to function. In the long-term, laughter can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve your mood. Next time you’re feeling down, get yourself a snack and sit down with one of YouTube’s finest cat compilations!


Companionship

In my opinion, the best benefit a cat provides is companionship. When you are having a rough day, your cat gives you something to look forward to when you come home. Looking after an animal provides a feeling of purpose and the love your animal shows for you can boost your mood.


While any pet can provide companionship, I would argue that cats are the best companion because they require so little from you. If you have had a rough day, the last thing you may want to do is take your dog for a walk or play fetch. However, a cat is happy as long as they have food, water and a clean litter box. Cats can provide the same love as a dog, without as much work.


If you are feeling lonely or blue, I would recommend looking into adopting a cat. Obviously, a cat is not going to solve all your problems, but they may be able to relieve some of the unnecessary stress in your life.


If you are interested in bringing a cat into your home, remember — adopt, don’t shop. Browse the Cleveland APL’s website and see if any of their cats jump out to you like my cat did for me.


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