Those Cat Videos You Love? Science Says They’re Good For You

At one time or another we’ve nearly all indulged in a cat video or two to brighten our day. What’s interesting is, some new research shows that those adorable furkid videos actually could be good for us, and in more ways than one.

The research, which was conducted by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick at the University of Indiana, saw around 7,000 Internet users surveyed about their cat video-watching habits to try to get a picture of why people watch these videos and how they feel as a result. The research is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior this month, and it’s pretty fascinating. 

The researchers found that certain kinds of personality types were more likely to enjoy cat videos–pet lovers in general but also people who were shy or generally found to be agreeable seemed to gravitate toward this media–but while we might expect that there’s a certain level of procrastination at play here, people may enjoy cat videos as a way of providing themselves a quick boost to their moods rather than just wasting time.

The researchers found that people reported feeling more positive and energetic after viewing the videos, and consequently said that they had fewer negative emotions like anxiety and sadness. Unsurprisingly, cat videos were often viewed during work or studying times, but the pleasure respondents got from viewing these videos outweighed any feelings of guilt about procrastinating, the latter of which was important because the researchers were keen to explore whether the positive effects might later be outweighed by guilt, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“We all have watched a cat video online, but there is really little empirical work done on why so many of us do this, or what effects it might have on us,” Myrick, is quoted as saying. “As a media researcher and online cat video viewer, I felt compelled to gather some data about this pop culture phenomenon. … Even if [people] are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”

As Myrick points out, there is little scientific work in this field but a study published in 2012 showed that looking at things we might term ”cute” like cute cats or babies can actually help us to be more productive because it tends to activate the care-giving impulses in our brains which, rather conveniently, often comes with a side of feel-good chemicals that relax us and may even make us more focused. This may explain the pattern Myrick found in her own research, but that will be the subject for future studies.

As a nice little note on this study though, Myrick is reported to have donated $700 (10 cents per participant in the study) to the Lil Bub’s Big Fund for the ASPCA, a fund named after the Internet’s celebrity cat Lil Bub that seeks to help homeless pets with special needs.

Now, the study might sound a little frivolous, but actually there are some serious and useful underlying issues here that make it very much worthwhile.

For starters, many of us are exposed to these videos on a daily basis. Even if we don’t click on them, we see them as part of the architecture of our online lives. Knowing that a Grumpy Cat video or the latest cat-chases-a-laser-light clip is a pick-me-up reinforces that watching these videos aren’t necessarily time-wasting activities but actually might be us humans looking for a way to de-stress or just inject a smile into our lives.

Perhaps even more importantly than that, researchers now want to investigate if watching cat videos, and pet videos in general, might be a low-cost and easily accessible way of giving pet therapy to people that need it.

Pet therapy has been shown to help people in particularly vulnerable situations, for example elderly people who do not have much contact with friends or family or students who find themselves feeling isolated or stressed in their new university environments. While it’s unlikely that these videos could replace the loving contact of a canine or feline friend, it may be that the videos could help support pet therapy goals when the pets aren’t available, making life just that bit easier.

So, with all that said, why not take a look at one of my favorite cat videos. This is Maru stretching the “if I fits, I sits” meme (and a box) a little far:

Here are a few more Care2 cat video favorites:

And don’t forget that you can get all your animal video needs met with our Daily Cutes right here.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

90 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Valentina R.
Valentina R4 years ago

Adopting a kitty is even better for your health. :-)

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Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

I know.... LOL!

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

Lovely to watch and always make me feel better.

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Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller4 years ago

You know, I just knew it was the case that those vidoes were good for you. They always make my heart feel good to watch those kitties, and it's nice to have a cat at home as well.

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Sheri D.
Sheri D4 years ago

Maru is so funny!

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Holly W.
Holly Windle4 years ago

I think there may be an underlying philosophical message in these videos of Maru and the boxes. Some cross of "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and "Brighten the corner where you are."

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Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik4 years ago

Truth as it is! Watching animal videos is so positive and energising .
Thank you for sharing =)

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago

Noted

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell4 years ago

Thank you

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