If you have found yourself watching more cat videos than usual while quarantined at home, don’t feel too guilty about it. In fact, there’s even some science supporting the idea that watching cat (or other animal videos) is good for you.
A June 2016 study, for example, by an Indiana University assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods. It was published in “Computers in Human Behavior.”
At the time, Myrick was quoted in a press release as saying: “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.”
Even Time Magazine has weighed in on cat videoes, with it’s ranking of best viral cats of 2019.
And marketing firms are also paying attention. Tubular Insights, for example, posted in 2014 that there are over 2 million cat videos on the internet. The organization also noted:
- Thomas Edison’s ‘Boxing Cats’ is believed to be the first ever cat video (Tweet this).
- The first cat video was posted to YouTube on May 9th, 2006 (Tweet this).
But, anyway, back to the science…The Indiana University study explored whether viewing cat videos online has the same kind of positive impact as pet therapy. It also sought to find whether some viewers feel worse, instead of happier, after watching cat videos because they feel guilty for putting off tasks.
Some of the key findings were that those who watched cat-related videos:
- were more energetic and felt more positive
- had fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness
- often view Internet cats at work or during studying, but the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating.
“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 at the time.
Overall, according to the press release, the response to watching cat videos was largely positive, and the results also suggest that future work could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost pet therapy.
A somewhat similar study, in 2012, “The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus” was published in Plos One.
The study looked not at video but at the viewing cute images, both adult and baby animals, and the effect of this viewing on task performance.
According to the study, viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require being careful, “possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus.”
The abstract for the study notes that, “Cute features induce careful behavioral tendencies in the users, which is beneficial in specific situations, such as driving and office work.”
The science is interesting, but with over two million videos to choose from, where do you start? Or stop, for that matter?
Well, if any of the side effects shown in the following (hilarious) video happens to you, you might want to think about limiting your viewing:
If you’re not quite at that point of knocking paperclips off your boss’ desk or chasing a laser light, we say, continue watching cute cat (and other animal) videos whenever you need a mood booster and/or help concentrating on upcoming tasks. And, with that, we’ll leave you with our all-time favorite cat video — Roomba Cat! (Do you have a favorite? Share in the comments. We’d love to know!)