The Purrfect Path to Happiness. How Cats Can Boost Your Mood


It’s no secret that cats make wonderful companions. In fact, research suggests that living with a cat can provide numerous benefits for your health and happiness. From lower stress levels to increased feelings of purpose, science shows that sharing your home with a feline friend really can make your life happier.

In this article, we’ll explore the major ways cats enhance our lives and overall wellbeing. While pet ownership comes with responsibilities, the joy and comfort cats provide far outweigh the extra work. Read on to learn just how much happier cats can make you!

Cats Reduce Stress

Numerous studies have shown that spending time with cats can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. When people interact with cats, their bodies produce lower levels of cortisol, which is known as the primary stress hormone. Cortisol is released in response to stressful situations and can contribute to high blood pressure, impaired immune system functioning, and other health issues when chronically elevated [1].

Petting a cat for just 10 minutes can result in lower cortisol levels and a calmer state of mind. Research has demonstrated that cat owners have lower baseline heart rates and blood pressure levels, indicating lower overall stress levels. The relaxing, repetitive motion of petting a cat releases oxytocin, lowers blood pressure, and provides a soothing effect [2]. Interacting with cats creates a positive feedback loop – petting cats reduces stress hormones, which then motivates cat owners to spend more time with their pets.

Simply being in the same room as a cat can make people feel less stressed and anxious. A cat’s presence and companionship provides a source of comfort and support. The unique purring sound cats make has been shown to lower anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, and promote healing and relaxation.

Cats Provide Companionship

Cats can provide companionship and emotional support that has significant benefits for mental health. According to one study cited in The Joys of Owning a Cat, cat owners were 30% less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke when compared to non-cat owners. The researchers attributed this to the calming presence and affection provided by cats.

For many people, especially those living alone, a cat can prevent loneliness and depression. Cats are often perceived as aloof, but they can actually form strong bonds with their owners and become attached. A cat’s purring and kneading are signs of affection and contentment. Petting a cat releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” bringing feelings of comfort and joy.

Unlike dogs, cats do not require constant attention or walking. But they enjoy interacting with their owners on their own terms. A cat jumping in your lap while reading or curling up next to you while sleeping shows they enjoy your company. This companionship and affection can provide powerful emotional benefits.

Cats Are Entertaining

One of the best things about living with cats is how playful and silly they can be. Cats are natural entertainers and love to play, whether it’s chasing toys or stalking an unsuspecting housefly. According to the Animal Humane Society, cats have a strong prey drive and need outlets for this natural instinct (“Seven enrichment ideas to keep your indoor cat entertained”). Interactive toys like feather wands and puzzle feeders provide mental stimulation and satisfy your cat’s need to “hunt.”

Cats also spend a good portion of their day grooming and sleeping. But in between naps, a playful cat will entertain itself by batting around balls, attacking wiggle worms, and leaping after laser pointers. Petfinder recommends setting up places for your cat to perch and watch the world outside for “kitty TV” entertainment (“Entertainment For Cats: 5 Ways to Keep Kitty Happy”). Bird feeders and fountains placed near windows create hours of amusement.

It’s hard not to smile watching a cat playfully stalk then pounce on a toy mouse. Their playful nature and goofy antics, like chasing their own tails, make excellent comic relief after a long day. Cats can keep themselves entertained for hours and provide endless amusement along the way.

Cats Can Improve Your Mood

One of the most profound ways cats can improve your mental health is by alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to research, cat owners report lower levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness compared to non-pet owners (source). This is likely due to the therapeutic power of cuddling and playing with a cat.

Cats can be extremely playful, especially when they are kittens and younger adults. Playing with a cat provides an outlet for laughter and exercise. Tossing toys for a cat to chase taps into your natural sense of amusement. You can even play hide-and-seek by having your cat search for treats. This interactive playtime can lift your mood and take your mind off anxious thoughts.

Petting a purring cat has also been shown to release oxytocin, the “love hormone” that alleviates stress. Cuddling a cat while reading or watching TV can lower blood pressure and cortisol. The soothing tactile sensation of a cat’s fur and warmth of their body releases tension. Simply sharing space with a cat nearby can have a calming effect and make you feel less alone.

Cats Promote Exercise

Owning a cat often leads to more physical activity for their human companions. Cats are active animals that require exercise and playtime. Playing with cat toys like feather wands, laser pointers, and balls encourages movement and burns energy in cats. Cat owners get the benefits of extra exercise when engaging in active playtime by waving toys around, throwing balls, and chasing laser pointers. This type of play provides physical activity for both pet and owner.

Cats also need environmental enrichment to stay stimulated. Cat trees, scratching posts, and cat tunnels promote activity as cats climb, scratch, and run through them. Rotating and rearranging toys motivates continued play. Owners are more active when interacting with cats and their enrichment items. Additionally, walking a cat on a leash and harness provides exercise for owner and pet. Daily play sessions recommended for cats give owners an easy way to increase their own physical activity.

Regular exercise from playing with a cat can improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, strengthen muscles, and elevate mood for the human. Cats require activity and environmental enrichment, which motivates owners to be more active as well by providing an outlet for a cat’s exercise needs. Simply having a cat results in more physical activity as owners participate in playtime and attend to the cat’s needs.

Cats Help You Feel Needed

Caring for a pet can provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. When you are responsible for another living creature, you feel needed and your time is spent productively nurturing your pet. According to research from the National Institute of Health, pet owners report feeling a greater sense of purpose and responsibility.

When you have a cat that is dependent on you for food, water, shelter, affection and healthcare, it makes you feel valued and gives your day purpose. Simply having a cat greet you when you get home or curl up in your lap can make you feel cared about. Knowing your cat needs you motivates you to take care of yourself as well. The meaning and companionship cats provide can help combat loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Caring for a cat requires commitment, time, effort and resources. Having this responsibility and providing a good home for a pet that relies on you can make you feel productive, needed and like you have a meaningful role in the world.

Cats Can Extend Your Life

Several studies have shown that owning a pet, including cats, can contribute to living a longer life. For example, a 2019 study found that dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners, often recovering better from major health events. According to Harvard Magazine, animal companions help their owners live longer, happier lives by reducing stress and loneliness. An infographic from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute states that pets can positively influence longevity by facilitating resilience and decreasing blood pressure.

While the research focuses mostly on dogs, cats can provide many of the same benefits. Cats give owners companionship and a sense of purpose day-to-day. Stroking a cat can lower stress hormones, and their antics can bring laughter. Knowing your cat depends on you can add meaning to life. Overall, the responsibility and affection cats provide make owners feel happier and healthier, which contributes to living longer.

Challenges of Pet Ownership

While cats can bring great joy and benefits to their owners, pet ownership also comes with responsibilities and challenges. According to the ASPCA, the first year cost of owning a cat is $1,174 on average, and then $795 each additional year [1]. Regular veterinary care, vaccines, food, litter and supplies all add up quickly. Cats can also cause messes in the home with issues like vomiting, shedding, scratched furniture, and litter tracking. Litter boxes need to be scooped daily and fully changed out regularly. According to PetHelpful, vet bills are a top downside of cat ownership, with emergency visits costing $1,000+ [2]. While cats require less day-to-day time commitment than dogs, travel and vacations require planning for care. Overall, the joys of owning a cat outweigh the challenges for most owners, but the responsibilities should be seriously considered before making the commitment.


In summary, cats can bring immense happiness and fulfillment into our lives in a variety of ways. By providing stress relief through purring and petting, companionship and affection, endless entertainment, mood boosts, motivation for exercise, and a sense of purpose, cats have a profound ability to improve our mental and even physical wellbeing.

While pet ownership also comes with responsibilities and challenges, the joy and comfort cats provide far outweigh the extra work. Our feline friends make our lives brighter through their playful antics and loving presence. If you are considering getting a cat, there is no doubt they will bring you much happiness and laughter. The special bond between cats and humans is truly a mutually fulfilling relationship.

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