Date Published: 4 November 2010
Do you find that cats can help relieve stress ?
Too much stress in your life ?
Most major modern illnesses (and adverse medical conditions generally) are caused or exacerbated by stress - according to numerous sources within the Alternative Medicine community.
It stands to reason that stress - which one could describe as negative emotions that intervene frequently or continuously, blocking personal progress or enjoyment of life - is worth addressing if and whenever found to dull, dampen or disrupt lives. One could even think of stress as one of the most destructive, though very difficult to quantify objectively and consistently, issues in modern comparatively affluent societies.
There are many different types of and reasons for stress. At the core of them all is anxiety due to desire, pressure from others, or financial or legal need to change oneself or some situation, combined with one's own perceived inability to do so within certain (real or imagined) constraints.
Typical examples of desires may include more money or material things or may concern health issues, relationship issues, work issues, family issues, legal issues, personal conflicts, civil unrest, natural disasters, and so on. Real or imagined constraints may concern, finances, personal ability (e.g. re. study), time, co-operation from others, environmental issues (e.g. the weather) and so on. In all cases the reason for concern may be real, external and/or physical but at least part of the solution to stress management is always emotional. That is, one can manage one's own emotional reaction by actively choosing how to view (yes - how the think about) the situation as a whole, and specific aspects of it. Is the glass half-full, or half-empty ? Can you find something to feel cheerful about right now, even if on a different subject ?
"How to relieve stress" is an increasingly common topic whenever people discuss their lives. Various solutions and approaches to stress management are proposed, endorsed, recommended, and so on. Do any of them really help, and if so which are best and how can one make the most appropriate choices on an individual level ? This is the subject of many entire books and certainly can't be thoroughly answered on one webpage. We have a few ideas and recommendations, some of which will be included in future articles. The rest of this article concerns the possible role of animal companions, not wild animals (which is a different subject) but really close friends ... who just happen to be animals.
Can animal companions help relieve (human) stress ?
This is an expanded version of our previous page about "The Healing Effects of Pets" (2004).
The benefits of the presence of animals in our lives depends partly on the type of animal.
Some of the most common animal companions include:
- Dogs - intelligent, affectionate companions. Require walking/exercise so may encourage more human exercise than the person might achieve alone !
- Horses / Ponies - in many cases require higher-levels of minimum human exercise/activity from their carers than domestic pets. They can also enable participation in many equine sports. Especially involve considerable outdoor activity.
- Cats - vary considerably re. independence and level of affection.
- Fish - minimum maintenance required, esp. if in an indoor tank. Relaxing to watch.
- Snails - similar advantages/disadvantages to fish, but apparently one can race snails. Social connections, then ?
- Tortoises - part-time companions if they need to hibernate.
In general, all of the above and others involve their owners (young, or old) in some care-giving activities, provide at least some visual stimulation (fish !) and may provide a social focus - something to talk about with others. The latter benefit is not to be taken too lightly considering the prevalence of loneliness in some modern environments. In many cases the animals who share our lives provide very much more - from improving our physical health through exercise, our mental/emotional health through the love and affection they demonstrate, and even contributing to our finances in certain situations, such as breeders, stud animal owners, competition animals, trekking/riding ponies, and so on.
More about the stress-relieving effects of cats
As for stress management generally, there are whole books about the contributions to human life made by all manner of animals in various different ways. We'll conclude this article with a few further thoughts about one of the most popular types of domestic animal, worldwide: Cats.
As a brief aside, it's probably only fair to admit that cats can also cause a certain amount of stress when loose in a neighbourhood ... doing the things that cats do (digging, messing, etc.) in neatly cropped and carefully managed gardens. We have no answer for that - let's just see how they make-up for it in other ways:
The stress-relieving effects of domestic cats can include, depending on the particular cat, obviously ...
- Lots of love and affection, when Kitty curls-up on your lap, or snuggles-up next to you on the couch.
- Taking your mind off your troubles by generally "acting happy" all the time, purring, etc.
- Giving you a "reality and priority check" when they want lunch, or anything at all really.
- Waiting-up for you to get home, however late - or at least making it appear that way by being there to greet you!
- The lovely coordinate stroke-purr thing that some cats too.
- Following you everywhere, so you're never alone.
- Can be an ideal, seemingly infinitely patient, companion when you're not well.
- Light-hearted moments due to their love of play ... toys on strings, etc.
We realize there are many more forms of "therapy" from cats !
See also much more interesting information and pictures of cats (at www.pictures-of-cats.org).
Important Note: Please don't take your cat or other animal friend for granted. They appreciate lots of love in return and also need you to meet all their other needs and a good proportion of their desires, whims and fancies as well ! Animal welfare considerations should be paramount. Check with an expert if you have any concerns about your animal friend.
Source: IvyRose Holistic Article.