Kitten Therapy: The Cutest Way to De-Stress

Who can be stressed after sitting in a box full of fluffy, clumsy, playful kittens? No one, that’s who — and we have the video to prove it.

In the short clip above, appropriately titled, “Kitten Therapy: The Prescription for Stress,” unsuspecting passers-by are approached to take part in a short stress therapy session inside of a large enclosed area. What begins as a headphone-guided meditation soon turns into playtime with a troop of adventurous kittens. 

The video was created by the website and creative agency SoulPancake in partnership with Purina Tidy Cats. “One day over summer, we posted up right next to the Los Angeles Courthouse in the heart of downtown LA — it seemed like a reliable place to find stressed out people,” the video’s press lead, Lindsay Indermill, told Yahoo Health. “When our unsuspecting ‘patients’ took off their shoes and entered the room, their stress was palatable. These people were all under intense pressure, whether they had just come out of court or were caring for young children alone.”

Kitten Therapy: The Cutest Way to De-Stress

“The moment those kittens started popping out of the wall, every participant was delightfully surprised.” (Photo by Corbis)

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Just about every person approached for the stunt made the final cut of the video, Indermill said. “The moment those kittens started popping out of the wall, every participant was delightfully surprised.” (Scroll to 1:30 to see the subjects’ reactions … and then wait for your heart to melt.)

But of course the video’s real stars were the kittens themselves, who were recruited from a local shelter by a certified trainer who supervised the shoot and kept the fluff balls safe and happy. Countless people approached the trainer about adopting the kittens, Indermill said.

On Wednesday, the team is conducting “mobile kitten therapy,” taking the animals to media outlets around Los Angeles.

“Our research shows that in general pet owners are healthier and happier people.” (Photo by Corbis)

The Surprising Science of Animals and Stress

While the video is an adorable stunt, it also illustrates the profound effect that animals can have on stress and wellbeing. “Our research shows that in general pet owners are healthier and happier people,” said Allen McConnell, PhD, a professor of psychology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The magnitude of the effect is modest, but still significant. “People with pets have a greater sense of social connection that helps them cope with stress more,” McConnell told Yahoo Health. 

Studies show that animals offer a host of stress-relieving benefits, from lowering blood pressure to decreasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. In 2013, the American Heart Association even released an official scientific statement outlining the many benefits of pet ownership for cardiovascular health. Among them: a diminished physical reaction to stress, better cholesterol levels, a lower risk of heart disease, and increased physical activity. People with pets are even more likely to survive heart attacks, research shows.

“Sometimes when you’re interacting with an animal, it allows you to forget what’s troubling you in the moment,” said Mary Margaret Callahan, Senior National Director of Programs for the nonprofit animal assistance group Pet Partners. “It’s on opportunity to take your mind off of other things causing stress and anxiety in your life and have a positive interaction with this creature who isn’t going to judge you.”

In addition to stress-relief benefits, scientists have also discovered these strange ways animals affect your health:

Animals not only help you de-stress, but also protect you from stress and change how you cope with it. In one study, stock brokers with high blood pressure could either take blood pressure-lowering medication or take medication and get a cat or dog. After six months, the new pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure than the pill poppers. They also significantly improved their score on a test of stress coping, whereas the medication group showed no improvement. 

Studies show that even looking at videos of animals lowers heart rate and blood pressure. (Photo by Corbis)

Animals help relieve pain. A study published in September 2014 looked at joint replacement patients who received visits from therapy dogs in the hospital. People who had visits from furry friends took about 25 percent less morphine during their stay, the results showed. In another study, patients at a clinic for the chronic pain disorder fibromyalgia, waited for their appointments either in the regular waiting room or with a therapy dog. The pooch-petting group reported 23 percent lower pain following their visit.

Animals improve your immune system. Research is still limited, but some studies suggest that positive interactions with animals might help you fight off infections. One classic experiment found that people who pet a dog for only 15 minutes experienced a small boost in immune function.

And if you don’t have an animal at home, you can still reap their health rewards. Studies show that even looking at videos of animals lowers heart rate and blood pressure. So go ahead, watch the kittens again. It’s good for you!

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