Did you know…
… that many studies have shown how pets can help to reduce stress and even lower blood pressure?
I didn’t, at least, not until recently.
I sat in the corner of the room my cats live in, cross-legged, and quietly observed them as they routinely padded around their living space. A sniff here, a prod there. Such inquisitive creatures. I watched as Chibi, my youngest, hopped onto the short wooden stool and meowed. As if to hope that I would understand what he just said. Not waiting for a reply from me, he hopped off the chair and started licking himself. My eldest boy, Loki, carefully made his way towards me but decided to rest against the wall not far from where I sat.
It was pleasant sitting in the room with them. But then it gets better than that.
Chibi meowed again and came towards me. A paw on my knee, followed by a second, third and finally the last hind leg. He stood there, rather precariously, on my thighs before settling himself down on me. I reached up to stroke his body, smoothed his fur and scratched his ears. I caressed his neck, rubbed his cheeks and gently massaged his soft and pink, jellybean toes. I sat there for what seemed like forever, my legs falling asleep. I craned my neck and took a peek at his face. There was a look of content on his face, a couple of slow blinks. Then his eyes closed. I’ve never seen him so cosy and comfortable before. My endless stroking and petting had put him to sleep. And you know what else? I felt myself drifting off as well!
My husband had mentioned before that the petting of cats can reduce the stress we feel. Well, if you have a bunny, I’m sure the same applies. For those who live with depression or anxiety (yours truly suffers from this caused by work stress), pets can truly be an integral part of getting through the day and overcoming challenges. And this is true for both adults and children.
The Academy of Anxiety and Depression of America states that anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. This is important to me because I was recently diagnosed with anxiety due to insane work stress. I hit rock-bottom hard and struggled to resurface for air but nothing worked. I lost interest in my hobbies, I found it difficult to read and focus, I lost precious sleep, I hadn’t wanted to see anyone. Not even my own parents. But one thing kept me going and that was my cats. They became my best option for therapy (free as well since I didn’t need to pay a fortune to see a real therapist), and that’s when I saw how the healing power of felines helped me through my darkest days.
Here are the top 3 reasons why I love my boys so much and am so grateful for how they have made me feel today:
They provide stress relief
Physical contact with your cat can lead to the production of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. All it means is the simple act of stroking your feline friend can relieve your stress and help you relax. Your heart rate and blood pressure are lowered, resulting in you focusing on your kitty rather than on your daily worries. It’s difficult to react with anger when you have a purring cat in your lap, no?
They provide health benefits
Petting and stroking your cat generally makes you feel good and happy. You feel more relaxed, calmer and less stressed about life. Spending time with and petting your cat can also help to prevent anxiety-related health issues. When you reduce the amount of stress in your life, your blood pressure is lowered and your chances of suffering from anxiety-related illnesses are reduced as well. It’s a domino effect that I don’t mind having.
Petting makes them feel loved
The act of petting works both ways. Not only does it help you breathe easier but it also shows how much tender loving care your cat is getting from you. Want to make the connection even better? Concentrate your rubbing and/or stroking motions on the areas behind her ears and eyes. Don’t forget the cheeks and the chin, too. Your cat will thank you for the ad-hoc massage and purr like a well-oiled, V8 engine of a sleek, sports car!
I used to think that term “therapy animal” was for dogs. After all, it is a given that dogs make excellent companions and constantly provide assistance to humans to cope in a variety of ways. But cats can be certified as official therapy animals too. Cats may not be for everyone, but they certainly are for me. That’s why I make it a point to spend as much time as possible with them.
Want more reasons to own a cat? Read Mental Floss for 10 Scientific Benefits for Being A Cat Owner.