Grumpy Cat, Pudge, Lil Bub — no matter which kitty you favor, there’s no question that cat videos are adorable. A new study now indicates that as adorable as they are, cat videos may also be beneficial to our mental health.
Assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick and Indiana University conducted the study that was publish with ScienceDirect on June 1, 2015.
“A survey of nearly 7000 Internet users tested associations between personality traits, past behavior, and viewing cat-related media online. The study also examined Internet users’ motivations for consuming cat-related content, including emotion regulation and procrastination. Additionally, it explored effects of Internet cat consumption on emotional states and enjoyment of this type of digital media.”
The study has found that positive emotions, such as happiness and relaxation, are boosted by watching videos of cats. At the same time, the cute videos seem to lower negative emotions, such as depression, and a general feeling of “grumpy.”
Cat videos even seem to impart more positive feelings than negative ones when people are actively procrastinating by watching them.
A writer watching cat videos for research, for instance, might watch several too many before feeling guilty enough to go back to writing… and then she might watch Grumpy Cat one more time.
According to Myrick, “[T]hese findings… promote the idea that viewing Internet cats may actually function as a form of digital pet therapy and/or stress relief for Internet users.”
Animal therapy is an accepted strategy, according to publications like Psychology Today. Many hospitals have AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) programs to work with the patients in need. Animals from many species can be trained to aid people without the ability to walk, see, hear, etc. However, they don’t only aid in physical disabilities.
Emotional problems can sometimes be managed by having a cat or dog in the home. There are many cases where depressed or emotionally disabled people got an extra boost toward happy with a pet. Cat videos are a digital version of that kind of therapy.
Cat videos are a huge part of social media and internet culture. There may be one or two people who still haven’t heard of Maru, but it would be difficult finding someone who didn’t know the name “Grumpy Cat.” Still, this study is one of the very few that have been conducted on the subject.
“Consumption of online cat-related media deserves empirical attention,” Myrick noted, “because, as the news accounts suggest, Internet users spend a significant amount of time consuming cat-related media, some of that while they are supposed to be doing other tasks like working or studying.”
[Image courtesy of Steve Jennings/Getty Images]