Feline help for mental health!
Inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week I have spoken with people who either work with psychiatric patients, with the elderly suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and with people who went through clinical depression and asked them how having a cat close to them helped them through a hard time.
This is what I learned:
Cats help with stress and anxiety:
Scientific evidence shows that a cat's purr can calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure. But also, due to their calm nature cats bring out this peaceful energy that a troubled mind can benefit from. All the people I’ve interviewed have experienced feeling calmer and secure just by stroking a cat.
Cats change your life:
Cats are creatures of habits who thrive on routine. Most cats will have a set pattern they follow every day, so their routines will develop around people’s schedule and the household routines. While such a routine driven life may seem boring to humans, but all the people I’ve interviewed explained that this helped them to have a more structured life and made them feel more secure.
Cats behaviour makes people laugh:
Cats are unpredictable and curious. They entertain us with their playful nature and creative problem solving skills. This gets the attention of their owners and might brighten the day of anyone who is feeling especially low. They drive our attention to them which is always a good break from our everyday issues.
Cat owners have an increased sense of pride, responsibility and enhanced social skills:
“Pets appear to act as ‘social catalysts,’ inducing social contact between people,” write U.K. researcher Ferran Marsa-Sambola of the University of Suffolk, and his colleagues. “A pet can be accepting, openly affectionate, consistent, loyal, and honest, characteristics that can fulfil a person’s basic need to feel a sense of self-worth and love.”
In addition to the science behind it, people I have interviewed have explained how they are very proud of giving their cats a good life, and even the elderly who suffer from Dementia or Alzheimer's disease feel proud of doing small tasks like feeding the cat or topping up the water bowl. They even make new friends who they talk about cats with.
Cats are great companions:
Contrary to popular belief, cats are highly social creatures that benefit from human companionship.
People feel less lonely and loved by their cats. They have a kitty to come back home to, and watch telly with.
Once you go cat, you can’t go back:
The love, companionship, and well-being of having a cat is proportional to the loneliness and sadness they feel when the cat is not around. All the people I’ve interviewed can’t imagine their lives without their cats. Even the ones who wish they could go on trips every other weekend. Their cats are their family, their home, and their unconditional love.
Special Thanks: Thank you very much to Marcela Mendez Orlando, Nurse Chief, for her explanations of elderly patients' pathologies and their relationships with cats.
Thank you very much to Nicola Walters Francis and Sharron Denton Anderson for sharing your life stories with me.
If you are suffering and you need to talk about your mental health please use the link below to find the best solution for you: