Cats make us smile and that’s good for our mental health and relationships

You might realise this but then again you might not. You often smile when you meet up with your cat companion or when they come to you. They have that effect on you. When you come home after working and your cat is there to greet you, it is quite likely that you will smile when you stroke your cat and walk with them into the living room for a stiff drink 😎.

On numerous occasions throughout the day your cat probably makes you smile and sometimes laugh when they get up to their shenanigans. Of course, sometimes they make you angry when they destroy the Christmas tree but by-and-large the default reaction is a smile which is good for your mental health and your relationships.

Smiling releases feel good ‘drugs’

And science has proved this. This is not anecdotal, top of the head stuff. Smiling affects the brain positively. Each time you smile your brain has a feelgood party according to a Psychology Today article.

Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides they say. These tiny molecules allow brain neurons to communicate, and they facilitate the messaging to the body when we are excited, depressed, angry, sad and happy.

When we smile, serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, feelgood transmitters, are all released into our brain. This relaxes our body and lowers our heart rate. You might know too that when a cat purrs this also lower your heart rate and at the same time, they probably make us smile gently or at least feel more content because we feel more relaxed.

Pain relief

And that isn’t all. Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever. They are, of course, 100% organic and not artificial. You don’t need to go to the medicine cabinet to grab a synthetic concoction which has negative side effects.

Anti-depressant

Because of these effects on you, your smile is an effective antidepressant and mood enhancer. This is the kind of thing that pharmaceutical companies create in their antidepressant medications. I think it’s better to smile at your cat and certainly there will be no negative side effects, only good ones.

Attractiveness

There are further good spin-offs when you smile at your cat. If you are living with a partner and you smile you look more attractive to your him/her, than you would have if you hadn’t smiled. And therefore, they treat you better. You are seen as more reliable, relaxed, sincere and attractive. All because your cat made you smile!

Perhaps we can rely on common sense to know that smiling makes us more attractive but a 2011 study at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen confirmed this. The participants were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness.

Both men and women found images of people who smiled and made eye contact more attractive compared of those who did not.

Contagious

And (yes, there’s more) smiling is contagious just like yawning. In a Swedish study the participants were shown pictures of people expressing the emotions of surprise, fear, anger and joy. When they viewed a picture of a person smiling and were asked to frown, they smiled instead. It took a conscious effort to remove the smile. There was an automatic response to smile back.

Symbiosis

When you smile at a person it encourages their brain to return the favour. You have created a symbiotic relationship in which both feel better because at that moment both your brains are churning out those feelgood transmitters I mention above.

All because of your cat!

And this myriad of little benefits are all kicked off by greeting your cat with a smile. Domestic cats make us smile. I wrote that at the very beginning when I created this website in 2007. I didn’t quite know how big a statement it was, but I did know that it was entirely true.

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