Cats Proven to Relieve Stress

by Kaley Lefevre

 Gypsy is available for adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society. Photo: Jessica Boston

Gypsy is available for adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society. Photo: Jessica Boston

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we often forget to take the time to relax. Fortunately, some of our four-legged friends are known to provide health benefits and can help us relax simply by being around us. 

Numerous studies have found that the benefits of owning a cat range from lower blood pressure to decreased risks and effects of dyspnea, a condition involving shortness of breath. Simply by petting a purring cat, an individual’s stress level decreases, and nerves relax due to the frequency of the purr. 

This frequency, typically ranging from 20 to 140 Hz, has proven to be medically therapeutic for many illnesses. If said aloud by a human, the frequency would be similar to the “ohm” sound one often makes while practicing yoga. 

With this in mind, the local organization Circle of Friends Animal Society has begun holding “kitty yoga” classes on a monthly basis, where individuals can practice yoga for a full class while adoptable kittens roam the room. Yoga instructor Brittany Barnes said during one class that just the kittens’ presence provides an air of relaxation to the event and informs students about their relaxing “ohm” frequency. 

Pet expert Arden Moore supported this idea and said that giving your cat a “head-to-tail therapeutic massage” can help to release positive endorphins, which helps slow your heart rate. Moore said engaging with animals via “happy talk” will also assist in releasing those endorphins and can help lower blood pressure, as well. Though it may seem silly to speak in such a way to your pet, animals can understand the difference between positive and negative energies and will respond accordingly. 

Other studies supporting this idea include a 10-year study conducted in 2008 by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis. Dr. Adnan Qureshi, executive director of the Institute, said in a Medical News Today newsletter that cat owners have a reduced risk of heart attacks by nearly one-third. 

In this study, “researchers found that over a 10-year follow-up period, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non-cat owners.” This notable difference between those who own cats and those who don’t supports the idea that cat owners benefit every day by bonding with their feline friends. 

Just as Barnes said during the yoga class, bonding with a kitten can be just as relieving and fulfilling as completing a full yoga workout. She stressed the importance of paying attention to the kittens if they chose to come to you during the class, and she allowe students to take their time moving through the yoga positions in order to ensure they are able to spend some time with the kittens. 

“Kittens are relaxing, and yoga is relaxing,” Barnes said during the class. “So, I really don’t see why everyone else isn’t here to come hang out with cats and relax because honestly, what could be better?”