Can Stroking a Cats' Fur Relieve Stress?

Petting your furry friend each day keeps the stress away.

Petting your furry friend each day keeps the stress away.

After a long stressful day, snuggling with your kitty and petting her fur can be just the thing to help you relax and unwind. Not only will her companionship cheer you up, but she'll be comforted by your presence as well, allowing the two of you to bond.

Stress Relief

Physical contact and touch with either humans or animals can actually lead to the body producing oxytocin, a hormone that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to the New York Times. This means that simply stroking your feline friend's fur can relieve your stress and allow you to relax. Not only this, but your heart rate and blood pressure are also lowered when stroking your kitty, according to an article in the January/February 2010 issue of Social Work Today. While you'll enjoy a lowered anxiety level from your contact with your furry friend, so will your kitty, who benefits from your touch as well.

Health Benefits

Petting and stroking your kitty's fur generally makes you feel good and happy, thus making you feel more relaxed, according to WebMD. Spending time with and petting your furry friend may not just relieve your stress, but also help prevent anxiety-related health issues, too. Reducing the amount of stress in your life lowers your blood pressure and helps lessen the chances of suffering from illnesses related to anxiety. According to a study published in the January 2009 issue of the "Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology," owners of kitties had a reduced chance of dying from a stroke or heart disease. So not only does spending time with your furry friend, including petting her, have psychological benefits, but also physical ones, too.

Stress Reduction and Prevention

While stroking your kitty, not only are you getting tactile comfort from the motion, your mind is focused on her, not your daily worries. The presence of your furry friend also promotes a sense of safety and well-being, discouraging a "fight or flight" response to stressful situations in your life, according to "The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interactions: Benefits and Responsibilities." Thus, not only does pleasant interaction with a friendly feline, like petting her, help you relax, but it also reduces anxiety-ridden reactions to potentially stressful situations. After all, how can you really react with anger and upset with a purring kitty in your lap enjoying some one-on-one attention from you in the form of some relaxing petting. This is why calm and friendly kitties are used in animal-assisted therapy for those suffering from both physical and psychological issues.

Considerations

To make your kitty feel great when you pet her, concentrate on the areas behind her ears and eyes, as well as around her cheeks and chin, recommends Cat Channel. While stroking a calm and happy kitty's fur can reduce your stress levels, petting one that isn't enjoying the contact certainly won't have any benefits to either of you. If you see signs of irritation in your furry friend while petting her, like a twitching tail, hissing or flattened ears, it's time to stop, recommends the Humane Society of the United States. Sometimes the petting may become a bit irritating for her after a while. If your kitty doesn't like to be petted at all, you might want to try tempting her over for brief sessions of petting followed by a treat to encourage her to allow you to touch and pet her.

 

About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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