I’ve always been teased that I’ll end up a little old lady with 28 cats. It wouldn’t shock me. It’s no secret that I love the furry felines. Even on the darkest of days, I cannot deny the contentment I feel from the innocent and unconditional love my they give me. My cats help my mental health.
Lily and Rosie came into my life at a time where I was in desperate need of a distraction. My mind was a constant war zone and everything in my personal and academic life seemed to be going tits up. I’d had a cat growing up called Trixie (full name FeFe Trixiebell – yeah, you read that right!) who was basically my childhood best friend. Most of the crap I had to deal with as a child was comforted by her and I felt like I’d lost a limb when she died.
A few years after in 2014, I had FINALLY persuaded my mum to let me have another cat in the house. Lily was a tiny tabby ball of fluff who I’d fallen in love with at first sight. She was so adorable I actually cried. After I’d brought her home, we decided to adopt her sister too, so she wouldn’t be lonely. Along came Rosie, a sleek black skinny little thing with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.
I’ve always had a closer bond with Lily, as my mum does with Rosie. Lily can be sassy and independent, but most of the time she is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met. Nothing makes me feel better more than when she curls up on my lap or follows me round the house. She likes to be cradled like a baby and she sleeps in the weirdest positions. She makes me laugh even when I don’t particularly want to and she makes me feel more calm. Although, as I write this the little cow is chewing one of my shoes. You’re not helping me make my point Lily!
At night, she will push herself under my duvet and nudge my arm until I lift it up so she can lie her little head on my chest. Any feeling of loneliness will evaporate, and the soft rhythm of her purr will lull me into a peaceful sleep. Yeah, I spoon with my cat. What of it?
Lily always seems to know when I’m feeling anxious or depressed. I don’t know how, but she just does. She will flop down beside me and put her paw on my arm. Warm, soft and peaceful. If she sees me cry, she’ll lick my face or pat the tears with her paw. I can talk to her about what’s going on inside my head without a fear of rejection of judgement. There is no sense of burden; I don’t have to worry about weighing her down with my problems because to be honest, she doesn’t give a shit. She simply sits and listens, and sometimes that’s all I need.
The science of a purr
You don’t just have to take my word for it – science is on my side too. Studies show the presence of a pet can increase the hormone Oxytocin, also known as the ‘cuddle chemical’ due to feelings of love and affection and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. They can also heighten dopamine and serotonin levels – two key chemicals that at low levels can cause low mood and anxiety.
A cats purr to me is one of the most relaxing sounds. Even more relaxing than a massage, a scented candle or Morgan Freeman’s voice; and there’s a scientific reason behind it. Scientists have discovered that the sound frequency of a cats purr has a hertz rate that is equal to the gamma waves, which are known as the meditation waves. This means you can therapeutically benefit from these vibrations. It’s been proven the sound can help with lowering stress and anxiety, reducing blood pressure and it can heal and strengthen bone and muscle. Cat owners are even 40% less likely to suffer from a heart attack. Mad right?
When we think of pets, a dog is usually the most obvious choice as a therapeutic animal. Their loyalty and reliance have secured the label of ‘a man’s best friend’ for a good reason. We often think of cats as unpredictable and independent. However, a study carried out by the UK Cats Protection agency surveyed 600 participants; half of which suffered with a mental health problem. 87% of cat owners found their felines to have a positive effect of their well-being. 76% reported their cats made stressful and anxiety fuelling scenarios easier to manage.
My cats help my mental health
Two years later, I couldn’t bear to imagine being without my furry babies. Their cuddles, presence and hilarious antics have definitely made a positive impact on my life. Pets are an integral part of any family and their existence is forever taken for granted. Funny cat videos dominate the online world and more and more of us are welcoming these four-legged companions into our homes and our hearts.
Do you have a pet that helps you?