The Purrfect Cure? How Cat Videos Boost Your Mood


Depression is a common mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million US adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2020. This represents 8.4% of all US adults.

With the rise of platforms like YouTube and social media, cat videos have become incredibly popular online. These short, entertaining clips typically show cats doing silly, cute, or unexpected things. According to some estimates, cat videos receive tens of millions of views per day on YouTube alone. They have become an internet phenomenon, with many people turning to these lighthearted videos for stress relief or a quick laugh.

The Link Between Pets and Depression

Numerous studies have shown that pets, especially dogs and cats, can have a positive effect on depression and loneliness. A 2021 study published in Health Promotion Perspectives found that pet owners had 41% lower rates of depression compared to non-pet owners (Chakma). The researchers suggest this is due to the companionship and social support pets provide. An analysis by the American Psychiatric Association also found that the vast majority (86%) of pet owners reported their pets have a positive effect on their mental health (American Psychiatric Association).

One reason pets can alleviate depression is due to the release of oxytocin when bonding with animals. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and produces feelings of affection, calmness, and well-being. Petting and interacting with pets causes oxytocin levels to increase, which can provide comfort and mood-boosting effects for those dealing with depression (Martin et al.). The unconditional love and constant companionship from pets can fulfill social needs for belonging and intimacy in a way that helps ease depressive symptoms.

While more research is still needed, the existing evidence indicates that pets, especially dogs and cats, can help provide social support and oxytocin release that alleviates loneliness and improves mood for those struggling with depression.


Chakma, S. K., Islam, M. A., Lasker, M. A., Ahmed, K. S., Shovo, M. R. I., Parvez, M. R., & Ahmed, T. (2021). Depression among pet owners and non-pet owners amid COVID-19 pandemic: A comparative cross-sectional study in Bangladesh. Health promotion perspectives, 11(3), 249–256.

Americans Note Overwhelming Positive Mental Health Impact of Their Pets. (2023, March 1). American Psychiatric Association.

Martin, F., Colman, L., & Anderson, K. (2021). Depression, anxiety, and happiness in dog owners and non-dog owners in a national U.S. sample: A cross-sectional study. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 9(2), 43-66.

Do Cat Videos Provide Similar Benefits?

There are some notable differences between the benefits of interacting with a live pet versus watching cat videos online. Real pets provide companionship and the ability to form strong emotional bonds. Stroking or playing with a pet can release oxytocin and lower cortisol levels, providing measurable stress reduction benefits. Cat videos can’t entirely replace this two-way interaction.

However, research has shown watching cat videos does elicit positive emotions like enjoyment, amusement, and calmness. According to a 2015 study, cat videos can boost energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings of anxiety, annoyance, and sadness. This uplifting effect may be due to the cute appearance of kittens and cats triggering our nurturing instincts. There is also evidence that watching cat videos activates the brain’s reward system.

Some researchers point to the potential for parasocial relationships and perceived social support from pets viewed online. Even though virtual interactions are one-sided, viewers may experience an illusory bondedness with featured animals. This could partially explain why people flock to cute animal content for mood enhancement and stress relief.

Studies on Cat Videos and Mood

There have been a few studies that have looked at the impact of watching cat videos on mood and emotions. In 2015, researchers at Indiana University conducted an experiment where they had people watch videos of cute animals including cats and puppies. The study involved almost 7,000 participants who viewed online cat videos and then self-reported on their mood [1]. They found that watching cat videos led to increased positive emotions and higher energy levels. People reported feeling more upbeat and energized after viewing the cute animal content.

Another study published in 2015 by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also found benefits of watching cat videos [2]. They had study participants watch videos of cute animals before completing tasks that required focusing and concentration. Those who viewed the cute animal videos performed better on the tasks than the control group, suggesting the videos helped boost their attention and mood. The researchers theorized that the positive feelings induced by cute animal content may help people cope with stress and challenges.

While limited in scope, these initial studies do indicate that cat videos can improve mood, at least temporarily. More research is still needed with larger sample sizes and longer-term tracking to better understand the impact cat videos can have on emotions, stress, and mental health.

Possible Explanations

There are several psychological theories that may explain why watching cat videos can lift mood and reduce stress:

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Watching cat videos may tap into this biophilic need by allowing us to observe the behaviors and expressions of animals we find cute or amusing (source).

Videos of cute cats may also elicit the caregiving response. This describes an instinctual longing to nurture others, which activates brain regions involved in pleasure, social bonding, and motivation when we see images of animals with childlike features (source).

Watching cat videos may provide a form of stress relief and mood repair. The videos give our minds a break from negative thoughts by shifting our attention to something positive and heartwarming. This can lower stress hormones and produce a calming effect (source).

Limitations and Concerns

While cat videos may provide some benefits for depression, there are limitations and concerns to consider. The research on cat videos and mental health is still quite limited. Most studies on this topic have been small and preliminary; there is a lack of large, randomized controlled trials specifically analyzing the effects of cat videos on depression. More extensive research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

There are also risks associated with overindulging in any online activity. Binge-watching cat videos could potentially lead to internet addiction and increased isolation. Moderation is key – cat videos may be helpful as part of an overall self-care plan, but should not replace real-world social interaction and treatment from a mental health professional if needed.

Recommended Usage

When used in moderation, watching cute and funny cat videos can provide a quick mood boost and temporarily reduce feelings of stress or anxiety, according to some studies (Watching Cat Videos is Good for You. Science Says So.). It’s best to view cat videos for short periods when you need a pick-me-up or want to briefly take your mind off things. Limit viewing to 5-10 minutes at a time, and avoid binge-watching cat videos for hours on end.

While an occasional cat video can lift your spirits, relying on them too heavily or frequently can be problematic. Watching cat videos shouldn’t replace other mood management techniques and coping strategies advised by mental health professionals. Overuse of cat videos could enable procrastination or distraction from important tasks. It’s best to view cat videos in moderation as needed, rather than making them a constant habit or entertainment source (Are Cat Videos Good for Cats? What Science Says & More).

Other Coping Strategies

While cat videos can provide a quick boost in mood, it’s important to build a repertoire of healthy coping strategies to deal with depression in a sustained way. The National Helpline recommends staying socially engaged and avoiding isolation as much as possible (SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 2023). The NHS also advises maintaining hobbies, physical activity, a healthy diet and seeking support from friends, family or professionals (NHS, 2023).

Other evidence-based strategies include practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation or deep breathing, engaging in creative outlets like art, music or writing, and challenging negative thought patterns through CBT or journaling (GoodRx, 2022). Support groups can also provide community and allow people to share advice. Overall, a multifaceted approach works best, with a mix of social, physical, mental and creative activities.

When to Seek Help

While cat videos can temporarily improve one’s mood, they should not be used as a substitute for professional treatment for clinical depression. If symptoms persist or worsen even after regularly watching cat videos, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.

Signs that cat videos are insufficient for managing depression include:

  • Worsening depressive symptoms like persistent sadness, anxiety, irritability, lack of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Inability to function at work, school, or in relationships
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed

If you notice any of these signs, do not hesitate to reach out for professional support. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 ( provides free and confidential support 24/7. Your doctor can also refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist for counseling and medication if needed.

With professional treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medication if warranted, many people with depression can manage their symptoms and regain their quality of life. Do not lose hope – you do not have to suffer with depression alone.


In summary, while cat videos can temporarily lift mood and provide short-term stress relief, the research is still limited on their benefits for depression specifically. More studies are needed looking at longer-term daily viewing of cat videos in depressed individuals to determine if it can lead to measurable improvements in symptoms. Based on current evidence, cat videos appear unlikely to replace other more traditional treatments for depression in any significant capacity.

With that said, for those suffering from depression, cat videos may offer a small but accessible coping strategy to briefly improve one’s mood or take a mental break from negative ruminations. Like all coping strategies, they should not be relied on exclusively long-term. But when used in moderation alongside other self-care practices and professional treatment, cat videos can be a lighthearted self-soothing tool for dealing with depression.

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