In the UK alone 46%, nearly half of all households own at least one pet. Traditional the dog has always been considered the ultimate companion, and having owned a dog myself I can see why. But in recent years cats are overtaking them as the most popular pet.
I adopted my kitty 5 years ago. It wasn’t planned, in fact I had always been a dog person. I had stopped by a local pet store when I saw her. She was so small and all alone, her siblings already sold. They informed me she was the runt of the litter, trembling in a corner covered in fleas. All I could think about was what I knew would happen to her if no one would buy her and it convinced me I couldn’t leave her there. My mother was not happy, neither was my brother actually I’m pretty sure he threatened to kill her! Those first days she stayed in my bedroom, 18 years old and with no knowledge of cats I had really thrown myself in the deep end with this bundle of fur. She cried every night, too scared of me to let me touch her and worst she wouldn’t eat. Luckily when I took her to a vets for flea treatment they told me she was too young to be separated from her mother, and that it was possible she hadn’t been weaned yet. Within a few days of hand feeding she had started eating solid kitten food by herself, she was healthier and despite being timid around humans she was quite the explorer, getting into all kinds of mischief! I named my kitten Hope, partly because of the hope I had given her the day I adopted her and partly because of the hope she had given me. My 18th year was home to one of the worst times for my mental health, despite not being aware I had a mental illness until many years later. Looking after her had become my sole focus, it had pulled me out of the dark depression and given me a reason for existence.
5 years later and she’s still timid with some behavioural problems, but over the years of building trust she now allows being stroked, picked up and sometimes cuddled 🙂
So in honour of my fur baby I decided to write about some reasons why having a cat can be good for mental health.
- Cats have magic purrs! You are probably thinking okay crazy cat lady but research has proven that cats create a purr vibration within the range of 20-140 Hz which is medically therapeutic. These vibrations have been found to help human healing (muscles, infections etc.). These vibrations have been found great for anxiety as stroking a purring cat lowers stress and blood pressure. They also help if you are struggling with breathing (i.e. hyperventilation during a panic attack).
- Furry antidepressants. Cats are a positive distraction for those suffering with depression. They provide routine and responsibility and can give someone a sense of being needed. Right now you might be thinking well surely all pets can do that, but cats have a particularly calm and relaxed nature which can rub off on their owners. They have an innate ability to sit perfectly still, sometimes hours on end, and just watch the world go by. So many people find cats can help them to appreciate the present moment.
- All the fun, half the effort. Unlike other pets cats require very little effort. They are independent creatures so unlike a dog who can’t be left alone for too long, cats are quite happy to spend the day with their own company. Give a cat a cardboard box or a ball of paper and they’ll be entertained for hours! Unlike dogs they don’t need to go for walks. Install a catflap then if your cat wants to go on a walk it will take itself. This also means they don’t need to be let out to use the loo, cats will bury their dodo outside or use a litter tray you just need to clean regularly. Low maintenance is great for those who struggle with their mental health.
- Comfort, comedy and companionship. If you are feeling lonely cats can be a great companion, unless they are energetic kittens they don’t require a lot of entertainment. A cat will be quite happy sitting on the sofa with you while you read a book. There’s something very comforting about a cat, with their soft warm fur they have the soothing effect of a snuggly blanket. And of course we’ve all seen the online videos cats do some pretty hilarious things! From fails, to facial expressions, they are bound to make you laugh.
Cats are all round awesome, just ask these guys..