Cat Videos Improve Mental Health
The next time you are sitting at your laptop stressing over the work you need to finish or the bills you have to pay, stop and switch gears for a little while. In fact, you might want to take a break and find a few cute cat videos to watch. That's right, cat videos. Despite being every comedian's favorite focus for mockery, cat videos may have received a bum rap from those who call them a colossal waste of time. According to new research, spending time viewing cat videos might actually be good for you.
The study, which was conducted at Indiana University's Media School in Bloomington, found that looking at videos of various cat antics may help improve your mood and provide a mental health boost.1 The subjects were nearly 7,000 people who responded to a social media survey of questions about their online viewing habits.
The participants provided a self-assessment of their personality traits and reported on their cat video watching behavior as well as the feelings these videos generated in them. A majority of the volunteers--60 percent--said they like cats and dogs, while 36 percent identified themselves specifically as cat people. But regardless of whether they prefer cats over dogs or aren't particularly devoted to any species of animal, the subjects were all positively affected emotionally from looking at cat videos. Go figure!
After watching cat videos, the participants reported experiencing a reduction in negative emotions including sadness, annoyance, and anxiety. This held true even when they were watching the videos while they should have been doing work or studying. Instead of increasing their stress levels over procrastinating or developing guilt, they generally said they felt a measure of pleasure that hadn't existed prior to their video viewing.
Who is the typical audience for the plethora of cat videos so readily found on the Internet? The data compiled from the survey responses suggests that it was mainly those who own cats and individuals who consider themselves to be shy and agreeable who are the most likely to view the frolicking felines. But they were not always actively looking for cat videos. Only in 25 percent of cases were the cat videos the volunteers watched actively sought out. The remaining 75 percent came up as the viewers were just jumping around on the Internet.
Clearly, the survey respondents were hardly alone in their selection of cat videos to view. A 2015 Pew Research Center report found that 45 percent of the videos people post to YouTube involve their cat or another animal.2 Incredibly, more than two million cat videos have been posted on YouTube to date, and these videos have a mind-staggering 26 billion (yes, that's billion with a b) views, making cat videos by far the most popular viewing category on YouTube.
Now, this research does leave a lot of information unexplained, such as how long a viewer watched their cat videos before their mood began to elevate. It is possible that just one or two minutes of the cute kitties will do the trick and start your spirits soaring. But is there such as a thing as too much of a good thing? After all, there is a big difference between grabbing a few minutes of entertainment versus several hours of mindless watching. Whereas a couple of quick videos might be just right to brighten your mood and help you take on the next task on your agenda with renewed vigor, spending two hours viewing video after video just seems wrong on so many levels. Aside from the utter lack of productivity, it means you are sitting and getting no exercise whatsoever, which we all know takes a health toll if it becomes a habit.
The point of this study, ultimately, may not be so much about cat videos per se, but to provide a reminder that we all need to stop what we're doing from time to time in order to do something we enjoy for a little while. Whether it's a time out from studying, a quick work break, or just a change of pace during the day, take a few minutes out to indulge in whatever brings you pleasure. If that's a cat video, great--there are plenty out there for you to peruse. If instead it can be found in a quick phone call to a loved one, a mini session of stretching to get the blood flowing, or reading a few pages of a book, that's fine too. Anything that can provide that brief escape and put a smile on your face is well worth it.
- 1. Kraft, Amy. "Cat videos may be good for your health." CBS News. 17 June 2015. Accessed 24 June 2015. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cat-videos-good-for-your-health/
- 2. Anderson, Monica. "5 facts about online video, for YouTube's 10th birthday." Pew Research Center. 12 February 2015. Accessed 25 June 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/12/5-facts-about-online-video-for-youtubes-10th-birthday/