Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Do cats help with anxiety and depression?

You may or may not know that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Mom has a blog about Suicide Prevention. While she doesn't want to busy up my blog about the topic, she did want to explore one question here since it is Suicide Prevention Month. The question is: Do cats help with anxiety and depression?  Why would mom ask that question? You might be surprised how many people struggle with anxiety or depression or both. I bet you know someone who has at one time struggled or may be struggling now with anxiety or depression....

Mom has struggled a bit with depression since our fires in 2012. She's not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders or depression and sometimes both. Mom started seeing a therapist a few years ago and still sees her regularly. Her therapist says she has "situational depression" caused by the fires. Mom still occasionally has nightmares about fire. While they are few and far in between now, they are still scary when she has them. I used to cuddle with mom at night. Now that I am gone to the Rainbow Bridge I am not there to cuddle and comfort mom when she is feeling down or experiences a nightmare. That brings me to the question.... do cats help relieve depression and anxiety in their humans? Yes! At least I think we do and here's why:

Pets offer unconditional love and acceptance. We cats can help our humans by providing our unconditional love. We love our humans dearly and they love us back. It's a wonderful, uncomplicated love that we look forward to every time our human comes home and that we miss when they are away. Kitty love is purrfect to cure our humans of pain.

Pets offer a soothing presence. Research has shown that pet parents have significantly lower blood pressure and muscle tension than humans that don't have cats or dogs at home.

Pets provide a sense of responsibility. This can be a negative as sometimes just getting out of bed can seem like a chore for someone struggling with depression. However, feeling responsible for something (like the happiness/wellbeing of a furkid) will give your human purpose, which really helps in times of struggle.

Pets provide a distraction. Pets, whether us cats or those annoying doggies, are like riveting movies and books. We take humans out of their heads and into another reality for a few minutes or more - one that involves food, water, afffection, and maybe a head butt or 2 - for as long as we allow. Distraction is an effective therapy for your human. How can they feel bad or sad when you are head butting them or purring in their lap? Us pets trigger "feel good" hormones for our humans which helps them feel less stressed and happier than if we weren't there for them. Depression can sometimes cause humans to feel isolated. We help keep them from completely isolating by being there for them when maybe other humans aren't there to help.

Pets alter human behavior. Imagine this scenario: Our human walks through the door after a long day at work. A million little snafus happened throughout the day that we don't know about but has our human dangerously close to wanting to take it out on someone. We come running to the door and get tangled up in our humans legs, nearly causing her to fall. She kneels to pet us and a smile spreads across her face. Viola! We have altered our humans behavior. Now of course she doesn't know it's because we are hungry and that we are tripping her because our real motive is to get her to feed us. That's our secret! :)

Pets promote touch.  The healing power of touch is undisputed. Research has shown that a 45 minute massage can help our human decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol and optimize their immune system by building white blood cells. Hugging floods the human body with oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and heart rates. It's not surprising then that petting a kitty or doggie can reduce our humans blood pressure and heart rate as well as boost their hormone levels. It's so hard watching from the Rainbow Bridge knowing I can't snuggle with mom and she can't pet me. I loved my couch time with mom! Sisfur Mia loves to hug mom. It's so funny to see her wrap her paws around mom's neck. I wonder if Mia is hugging her or trying to strangle her? Hmm....

Cats (and doggies) have so many health benefits for humans. Since I can't be there for mom I am glad she has Sisfur Mia and Brofur Mosby there to take care of her! They better behave as I am watching over them! Sisfur Mia likes to hug mom and Brofur Mosby likes to hang out on the couch with mom. It does my heart good to see my fursibs being affectionate with mom.

Anxiety, depressiona and suicide prevention are serious topics. If you read this far, thank you! And because today's topic was such a serious one, I want to end this blog post with a funny....

Take care pals (and take care of your humans)!

Angel CJ