The Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Cat

By Kara Reynolds – September 1, 2022

Cats can get a bad rap from people who are not familiar with them, but cat owners realize just how special they are. Our feline friends are fun to have around and make excellent companions. You may not even realize that cats benefit their owners’ mental health, just as much as dogs do. Science has found many links to having a feline companion and enjoying better mental health outcomes. 

Without further ado, here are some of the top ways cats help our mental health.

Reducing Stress

Cats may have quirky personalities that entertain us, but science has shown that cats are also great at relieving stress.

A study on married couples found that cat owners fared much better in stressful situations than non-pet owners. The participants faced various challenges, some with and some without their partners. The cat owners had a lower resting heart rate at the start of the study and better cardiovascular and respiratory rates during stressful challenges than the non-pet-owners participating. Research also finds that college students from Washington State University who petted cats for just 10 minutes had decreased stress hormones in their saliva.

It’s believed that cats are great stress reducers because they don’t judge and are always there for their owners to care for and play with.

Encouraging Activity

Although they are primarily indoor pets, cats can also increase your activity level, according to a study conducted in Singapore. Having a cat means you have to get up to give them food, clean out their litter box and offer plenty of time for playing. This gets your body moving more throughout the day.

Exercising with your cat is also vital for their health. According to an article by a VMD, exercising helps cats manage their weight and stay mentally stimulated. Cats also indirectly increase your activity level by increasing feel-good hormones like oxytocin, which can make you feel better and help you take on tasks you may have previously felt like not doing.

Building Relationships

Cats are great companions, but they can also help you build better human relationships. Research finds that cat owners exhibit greater trust toward others, enjoy others more and are more socially sensitive. These are all important qualities when building relationships.

Man with cat outside.

Scientists have also found that while cat owners tend to be more introverted than dog owners, cat owners are more sensitive and open-minded. Cats “fill our cup” with positive connections that give us the confidence to build outside relationships. Couples who own a cat are closer and interact more with one another than non-pet owners.

Increasing Personal Well-Being

Cat owners also have improved overall well-being than non-pet owners. A survey was conducted in Australia to determine whether or not owning a cat positively impacts one’s quality of life. It concluded that cat owners had significantly greater psychological health than non-pet owners.

One study found that domestic cats can read facial expressions and sometimes respond accordingly, fulfilling an owner’s emotional needs. In another study, children who adopted cats in their tween or early teen years had a better quality of life than those who didn’t. They felt happier and more fulfilled than their counterparts.

Healing From Hard Times

While you may think of dogs and horses as the top therapy animals, remember that cats are also great therapeutic partners for people going through mental illness or just tough times.

Cats can be great companions if you suffer from anxiety or depression, as they can be easier to talk to and bond with than others. Some cats are even registered therapy animals. The feeling of stroking a cat and hearing it purr is very relaxing and can promote happiness and healing in patients.

Cats for Mental Health

Cat owners have an overall advantage in mental health, thanks to the feline friends they’ve bonded with. Cats are emotionally intuitive, active and make great companions. These features can promote confidence and positive emotions in their owners. Did you think they could get any better?


About the Author

Kara Reynolds smiling.

Kara Reynolds is the founder and editor-in-chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.


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