Not-So-Guilty Pleasure: Cat Videos & Images Drive Positive Feelings in Humans

For all of the flack the “Hang in there, baby” posters have received (featuring an adorable kitten clinging to a branch) over the years, it and images like it, as well as countless cat videos, were vindicated in a 2015 study. It turns out that the effect of watching cute cat videos online are much more profound than you might think.

According to Indiana University, watching videos of putty tats does more than merely entertain us. They’re also responsible for boosting energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings.

Photo: Pixabay/FelixMittermeier

Cat Videos

The study, undertaken by IU assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed nearly 7,000 people concerning their viewing habits of feline videos and how they impacted their moods. Published in the November 2015 issue of Computers in Human Behavior, Myrick stated,

“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today. If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.”

tabby kittens
Photo: Pixabay/12019

Endearing Internet Content

Internet data pointed to more than 2 million cat videos posted on YouTube in 2014 alone, with close to 26 billion views of the cuddly content. In fact, cat videos garnered more views per video than any other category presented.

“We all have watched a cat video online, but there is really little empirical work done on why so many of us do this or what effects it might have on us,” Myrick added. “As a media researcher and online cat video viewer, I felt compelled to gather some data about this pop culture phenomenon.”

cat splooting
Photo: Pixabay/katya-guseva0

Popular Platforms for Feline Fun

During Myrick’s study, the researchers uncovered that the most popular platforms for watching cat videos included Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed, and I Can Has Cheezburger.

Among the potential effects Myrick wanted to explore was whether viewing cat videos online had the same positive impact as pet therapy. Also, do some viewers feel worse after watching the clips because they feel guilty for wasting time when they could have been productive?

Of those that participated in the research, around 36 percent described themselves as a cat person, while roughly 60 percent said they liked cats and dogs.

cute cat
Photo: Pixabay/bongbabyhousevn

Nothing but Blue Skies

Participants reported that they believed they were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat-related content than before. They also reported fewer negative emotions like anxiety, sadness, or feeling annoyed after watching feline-related content. Not surprisingly, they also admitted to viewing cats playing during work or study hours.

As to guilt, the pleasure they derived from watching these videos far outweighed any guilt they may have felt about momentarily or periodically goofing off. Another interesting nugget from the study was that cat owners and people with certain personality traits, like agreeableness and shyness, were more apt to watch cat videos.

British shorthair cat
Photo: Pixabay/MelaniMarfeld

Searching for a Mental Boost

For clarity, approximately 25 percent of the cat videos they viewed were clips they actually searched for, while the rest they stumbled upon by chance. In general, the response to watching these forms of entertainment was predominantly positive.

“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward,” Myrick noted, which makes sense. As humans, we often turn to stress relievers to give us the emotional strength or creativity boost we need to forge ahead.

kitten in tall grass
Photo: Pixabay/laurenta_photography

Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

At this stage, studies revealing links between cat ownership and cardiovascular health — including a reduction in blood pressure and lower incidents of heart attacks and stroke — are old news. This is true for dogs as well, with research pointing to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and PTSD in those who have pet buddies.

Bless their hearts, they provide us with comfort and companionship, and can even give their owners a sense of purpose and meaning. What’s not to like about them?

People, Pets & Planet

Help where it’s needed most at GreaterGood for free!