Cat Therapy: 6 Mental Health Benefits of Cats

Cat therapy is recommended to work on different objectives. Among them, the improvement of mood and the teaching of values such as responsibility and care.
Cat Therapy: 6 Mental Health Benefits of Cats
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

Surely, when you imagine the beginning of therapy, what you tend to visualize is a psychologist and a patient. Of course, that’s the most widespread image. However, it’s not the only one. As new advances were discovered and new theories were proposed, therapy has evolved and transformed. That’s how cat therapy was born.

Cat-assisted therapy involves the participation of a feline. Let’s take a look at what it consists of and what its benefits are.

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The benefits of cat therapy

Pet care has numerous advantages for our health. Some of the benefits of incorporating the care of a cat as part of a therapy (cat therapy) are the following.

1. It strengthens our immune system

By interacting with felines, caring for them, playing with them, and distracting ourselves, we’re able to get away (momentarily) from certain worries and distance ourselves from problems. This reduces stress and strengthens the body’s natural defenses.

A woman feeding a kitten: Cat therapy
Caring for animals reduces our stress. Since there’s less cortisol, we have a better response from white blood cells.

2. It helps to reduce anxiety and stress levels

The feline’s rhythm is very different from that of other animals. Therefore, living with this type of pet can contribute to bringing a little more tranquility to our day-to-day lives, reducing anxiety.

3. It allows us to better cope with loneliness

In some cases in which the person is going through a situation of grief, loss, or separation, it’s recommended that patients begin to get pets for therapeutic reasons. This may even be the case for empty nest syndrome. In some cases, it’s recommended that a person starts cat therapy. In this way, they feel companionship and can take care of the pet.

It’s a way to connect with emotions. By playing, talking, giving, and receiving affection, loneliness dissipates.

4. It helps strengthen other skills

Exercising responsibility, attention, and task distribution are soft and social skills. In families where there are developing children, making them part of the pet’s care is also a way to support the development of values.

5. It brings joy to our lives

From the petting to the reactions when we come home after a long day, you’ve surely found yourself smiling at your cat’s silly behaviors or found yourself talking to other people about him or her. In this way, it improves our mood, making a positive impact on our quality of life.

6. It reduces the chances of having a heart attack

A 2009 study revealed that people who live with cats are less likely to die of a heart attack. This is due to the reduction of blood pressure.

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Some things to keep in mind about cat therapy

This type of therapy with cats, and not with dogs or other animals, is suggested for certain cases. For example, in relation to older adults, canines are more demanding and also more energetic (depending on the canine family, of course). So sometimes a simple game can end in clumsiness and a fall.

Cats are considered to be more independent and require less attention. Similarly, unlike a dog, a feline can live better in an apartment and doesn’t need a daily walk, which is often complicated for an elderly person or one with reduced mobility.

Thus, this type of pet can contribute to a balance between the interest in caring for a pet while also being an animal that isn’t too depedent. Cat therapy is also recommended for the approach in cases of children with autism.

It’s important to make clear that, in this latter case, it’s not a question of affirming or deciding which pet is better or worse. What we have to do is to adapt the therapy with animals to the circumstances according to the therapeutic objective.

Man with reduced mobility
For people with reduced mobility, it’s better to care for an animal that doesn’t demand so many walks or outings.

Not all types of therapy work for all people

Like any type of approach, cat therapy requires a certain commitment to achieve the desired improvements.

In this sense, before starting it, it’s necessary to be honest and analyze the real possibilities. Not all types of therapy are for everyone and not all of them work in the same way. Therefore, it’s important to analyze your diagnosis and the particular situation. For example, although it may seem obvious, we should know beforehand if the person is allergic to cats or not.

That’s why, before recommending or starting therapy of this type, we must also think about the quality of the treatment that a person can offer to the animal. Let’s remember that pets are not toys or objects and that they also have basic needs that must be satisfied, as well as rights to be respected.

Along these lines, it’s necessary to ask ourselves if we have a comfortable place to have a cat, if we’re interested and we will take care of it, and if we have the economic resources and time to provide care and welfare. Otherwise, it can lead to a stressful situation both for the person and for the animal.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barbosa Gómez, L. K., & Rosero Córdoba, Y. S. (2021). Conocimiento de la comunidad del sector salud en la UAN sobre la terapia asistida con animales.
  • Qureshi, A. I., Memon, M. Z., Vazquez, G., & Suri, M. F. K. (2009). Cat ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases. Results from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study Mortality Follow-up Study. Journal of vascular and interventional neurology2(1), 132.
  • García-Mauriño, P. A.; Amado Luz, L.; Babot, M.; Lacasa, F. y Álvarez Segura, M. (2017). La aplicación de la terapia asistida con animales en la salud mental infanto-juvenil. Revista de Psicología Universidad de Antioquia, 9(2), págs. 177-188. DOI: 10.17533/udea.rp.v9n2a11

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.