The study findings were based on survey results from nearly 7,000 cat video viewers to explore whether viewing cat videos online had the same type of positive effect as pet therapy. Of the participants in the study, about 36% described themselves as a “cat person,” while about 60% said they liked both cats and dogs.
Viewers were asked if they felt worse after watching cat videos and whether they felt guilty for putting off tasks they needed to tackle. Most participants rated their emotional state as more positive after watching a video than before.
Although there was a general sense of guilt for doing so, the vast majority felt that the enjoyment of watching these videos outweighed any feelings of guilt about procrastinating.
Participants in Myrick’s study reported the following:
- They had fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness, after watching cat-related online media than before.
- They were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat-related online media than before.
- They often view Internet cats at work or during study hours
- The pleasure they got from watching these cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating.
- Cat owners and people with certain personality traits, such as agreeableness and shyness, were more likely to watch cat videos.
- About 25% of the cat videos they watched were ones they sought out; the rest were ones they happened upon.
- They were familiar with many of the internet “celebrity cats”
Overall, the response to watching cat videos was overwhelmingly positive, concluding that watching videos of our feline friends can actually boost your energy level, heighten your positive emotions and reduce feelings of anxiety, annoyance and sadness.
“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 said.
Dr. Myrick noted that there is little scientific work in this field and her new findings suggest that watching these cute cats can actually help us to be more productive because it tends to activate the care giving impulses in our brains. The side effect is the release of ‘feel good’ hormones in our bodies that help to relax us and may even make us more focused. The full study was published in 2015 in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior.
The results also suggest that future work could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost pet therapy, she said.
Following is one of our favorite cat videos …