Cats are great therapy for kids with depression or anxiety.

October 28, 2018 3 min read

Photo: Catsandmeows

If your youngster is prone to depression or anxiety, providing her with a feline friend could be one way to lift her spirits.

Interacting with animals in your home on a regular basis reduces anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation, and it can elevate a person’s emotional and physical well-being, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). HABRI is an organization that gathers, funds, and shares scientific research about the positive effects of companion animals.

Numerous studies have shown that sharing your home with a furry friend is beneficial on many levels for both children and adults. For starters, these four-legged companions force caregivers to focus on something other than what might be troubling them or giving them anxiety. Caring for a cat, for example, requires time and attention. For a child, interacting with a kitty becomes a positive distraction as well as a form of entertainment plus it leads to a deepening relationship, bond, or friendship between the cat and the child.

In a survey conducted by Cats Protection in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, nearly 90% of cat parents said sharing their home with a kitty enhanced their sense of well-being. Another 76% attributed their cat’s presence with helping them cope better with everyday life, and about a third of the respondents said petting their cat provided a calming effect. A cat’s purring is also said to provide therapeutic benefits for depression and anxiety.

 

Here are five ways your child can benefit from sharing his home with a feline fur friend:

  1. Cats encourage kids to play, which in turn gets kids up off the sofa and moving around the house. Any form of increased activity improves mental health. Playtime with the kitty can be a definite mood-booster! It creates a positive distraction for your child and will likely lead to lots of beneficial laughter. Watching a kitty slide across the floor in pursuit of a laser beam or darting in and out of a box or paper bag can be quite entertaining for your youngster.

  1. Caring for a cat gives kids a level of responsibility. It gives them purpose and helps them focus on caring for another living creature. Allowing the child to feed and clean the cat’s bowls or litter box if they’re old enough instills self-confidence. What better reward is there for a kid than when a cat expresses its appreciation by curling around your kid’s leg or affectionately nudging him for attention? These feline gestures help your child feel loved and valued.

  1. Cats provide great company for your kid. This living, breathing furball is someone your kid will share his day and his secrets with. Cats are great listeners, and they’re quite huggable. They provide unconditional love and are non-judgmental. They make excellent sounding boards when kids feel like they have no one else to turn to in the house. Just having the presence of another living being that your child connects within the home reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  1. While playing with a cat can positively increase your child’s physical activity, quiet time with his feline friend offers unilateral benefits as well. Curling up with a kitty helps kids relax and wind down. Stroking a cat’s fur lowers blood pressure, calms breathing, and slows the heart rate. The sound of a cat’s purr also is comforting and soothing. This one-on-one bonding experience creates a sense of security and trust between your child and his feline friend.

  1. Cats can enhance your kid’s social skills. Research from the University of Missouri shows that animal companions can boost a kid’s self-confidence and encourage social connections with others. Sharing stories about what their cat did at home is much easier than talking about something that happened at school. It gives kids a way to connect with others, especially if they share a common experience in being cat parents.

With one in eight children affected by anxiety disorders, according to the Academy of Anxiety and Depression of America, supplementing traditional treatments with something as simple as introducing a fur baby into your home is well worth a try. There’s just too much evidence not to capitalize on the value of cohabitating with these loyal and loving four-legged companions. They’re good for the mind, body, and soul! 



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