Why we love watching cat videos online

Are you addicted to watching cat videos at work or school?  Do you secretly tune in to videos of adorable puppies?  Or are pandas more your thing?  You’re not alone.  According to Businessinsider.com (2015), there are are over 2 million cat videos on Youtube, and they have 25 billion views.

Are pet videos timewasters?

Many employers consider this as a contributing factor to “time wasting”.  A recent study by Salary.com of American workers found that employees are spending longer periods than ever before “wasting time”:

•  31% waste roughly 30 minutes daily
•  31% waste roughly 1 hour daily
•  16% waste roughly 2 hours daily
•  6% waste roughly 3 hours daily
•  2% waste roughly 4 hours daily
•  2% waste 5 or more hours daily”

That’s a lot of time.  The article goes on to cite the many ways workplaces are cracking down on this abuse of time, especially when 38% of workers claim to waste time on non-work related social media.  Banning websites and viewing trackers are some of the technological tools companies are using.

 Pet videos push productivity

But research has shown a positive side to the human fascination with our furry (or scaly) friends.  In a 2016 article on TODAY.com, Scott Stump reports that new research actually points to a rise in productivity when workers view animal videos:

“In a paper published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, a study involving 124 students from a large Australian university found that when they were given a boring task and then exposed to funny videos, they worked twice as long as those who watched videos about neutral subjects”.

Evidence from the original study shows that watching cat videos actually does make us feel happier, less stressed, and more positive:

Source:  http://www.businessinsider.com/psychology-of-cat-videos-study-2015-6

Researchers think that the “happy vibes” and positive effects that humans share when they encounter live pets occurs when we encounter these virtual pets online, and this is why productivity is improved.

(Disclaimer:  Hal Herzo, Ph.D. (2017) acknowledges the body of research that supports this positive news he points out the many holes in the research into pet therapy that need to be addressed.)

How Pet Therapy Works

So why do we experience these happy feelings when we encounter our furry friends, even online?

Research about pet therapy effectiveness has shown that animal therapy can help people recover from various illnesses and mental health issues (including heart disease, cancer, PTSD, anxiety and depression); even the Mayo Clinic (2017) has an established Pet Therapy program for its patients: Caring Canines.

The exposure to a pet doesn’t have to be long:  even 10-15 minutes can bring on the warm and fuzzies, resulting from the release of positive natural hormones –like oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins (Uyemura, 2017).


(source: Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program | Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)



Live-in pet therapy in Canadian homes

In Canada, dogs and cats remain the most popular domesticated family members:  according to a nation-wide Canadian survey of more than 4,200 pet-owning households, “36.5% of households owning a dog and 30.4% of households reporting cat ownership” (CAHI, 2015).

However, many household cannot have pets for various reasons: allergies, cost, time, etc. stop Canadians from having pets even though they would love to have one. Many workers compensate by getting a daily dose of cuteness from online sources.

Increase your productivity: Book a pet therapy break

To use animal therapy to increase your productivity at work, you can limit your cat-or-dog viewing to set break times during the work day, or use this as a reward for getting work done.  Try using online trackers or set reminders to take those mental health breaks.

My theory:  we’re all cat or dog wannabees

I have another theory to support our love affair with online cat and dog videos:

We admire the lives of these animals who share our animal urges.  These domesticated animals provide us with unconditional love but they also possess those wild attributes that we have lost but still lurk within us.

Yes, we secretly wish we could be them. 

  • Who wouldn’t want to sleep on the couch all day while the family is gone?
  • Who wouldn’t want to jump off the top of the fridge onto a counter to retrieve the yummy food lying there?
  • Who wouldn’t want to ride the Roomba?  Or make a hiding spot in a cardboard box?
  • Or eat whatever we find on the ground?  (well, that one’s kind of gross…)

The opportunities are endless.

Join the Animal Kingdom

How can we deal with this longing for our primordial roots in the wild kingdom?
Here are some suggestions:

  • Start your day with a good backstretch, like a downward dog or a cat stretch.
  • Find a sunbeam and sit in it for awhile; try not to purr.  (Wear sunscreen when doing this.)
  • Catch up on your sleep by taking a cat nap.  (Not at work, at home.)  Spend an hour or two on the couch this weekend just relaxing.
  • Work on developing your sense of smell:  do some aromatherapy by surrounding yourself with great smells:  vanilla, strawberry, garlic, the rain.  Try to identify your friends or significant others by their smell alone.
  • Get outside and run in the field.  Or chase a ball with your friends.  Walk barefoot on the beach.  Dig a hole in the sand or climb a tree.  Roll in the dirt.
  • Meet people you’ve never meet before:  Walk up to them, take a sniff and say hello. You can’t wag your tail so maybe just smile at someone you’ve never met.
  • Go climb something and then jump off.  Something not too high, like the couch, a snowbank, or a climbing wall (be safe though – wear a helmet!)
  • Hang your head out the car window and feel the air rush over you.  (Watch for bugs!)

All of these activities will help you reconnect with your animal self – the animal self that enjoys the moment and doesn’t really worry so much about the future.

Hands-on animal therapy

Alternately, you can get a dose of real-life animal therapy to keep you going: 

  • Walk your neighbour’s dog or play with a friend’s cat.  Many people own pets but don’t have time to teach it tricks, pet it or groom it.  Pets love to spend time with humans.
  • If you have a pet, take it to visit an elderly friend or family member (only if your pet has good manners and the friend is alright with this and has no allergies)
  • If you have children, teach them how to approach pets they may encounter on leashes in a safe and respectful way.
  • Feed the birds in the park on your lunch hour.
  • Volunteer at your local humane society, or get involved with a pet therapy program, if you have a dog or cat.

Have some fun – maybe that’s what we’re really missing when we watch animal videos online.

Share your online pet video addiction/health habits….

Do you watch cat or dog videos online?  How often?  Tell us about your guilty pleasure using these unscientific polls:

Or maybe just watch some of these cute videos.

Bat cam: https://www.zoo.org/batcam Best viewing times are after dark.

Goat cam: https://video.nest.com/live/c1uOdc

Kitten cam: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/kitten-rescue-cam

Owl cam: http://fwcp.ca/owlwebcam/

Panda Cam at the San Diego zoo: http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/panda-cam

Puppy Cam: http://www.apl.tv/puppies.htm

Rare Owl Baby Bird Cam: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/baby-bird-monitor-live-nest-cam-shows-rarest-owls-in-canada-1.3412629

Squirrel cam: http://www.squirrelcam.org/

Tropical Reef Cam: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/pacific-aquarium-tropical-reef-camera You can access the Great Gray owl, Shark, and Wisconsin Pasture cams here as well.

More information/sources:

Baer, Drake. (June 17, 2015).  Here’s the surprising psychological reason the Internet loves cat videos. Business Insidier.  Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/psychology-of-cat-videos-study-2015-6

Canadian Animal Health Institution. (2015).  Latest Canadian Pet Population Figures Released. Retrieved from https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/canadian-pet-population-figures-cahi-2014

Conner, Cheryl. (July 31, 2015). Wasting Time at Work: The Epidemic Continues. Forbes.  Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2015/07/31/wasting-time-at-work-the-epidemic-continues/#468402e71d94

Herzog, H. Ph.D. (Nov. 17, 2014). Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Really Work? Psychology Today.  Rretrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201411/does-animal-assisted-therapy-really-work

Pet Therapy. (2017). Healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/pet-therapy

Pet Therapy: Man’s best friend as healer. (2017).  Mayo Clinic.  Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

Stump, S. (March 15, 2016).  Watching funny cat videos at work can boost your productivity according to study, TODAY. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/pets/watching-funny-cat-videos-work-can-boost-your-productivity-according-t80311

Uyemura, B. (2017).  The truth about animal assisted therapy. Pysch Central.  Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-truth-about-animal-assisted-therapy/

Animal Therapy Services in Ontario

Train your dog to be a therapy dog, or assist in training someone else’s pet. (2017). St. John Ambulance, Therapy Dog Services. Retrieved from http://www.sja.ca/English/Community-Services/Pages/Therapy%20Dog%20Services/default.aspx

Ontario SPCA – find a humane society or dog rescue organization near you: transfer, foster, visit or assist animals in need. (2017). Ontario SPCA.  Retrieved from http://ontariospca.ca/

Animal and Pet Therapy. (2017).  CHEO, Ementalhealth.   Organizations and Services available in Ontario.  Retrieved from http://www.ementalhealth.ca/Ontario/Animal-and-Pet-Therapy/index.php?m=heading&ID=74

Twitter and Facebook Promotions for COM011 Course:

Twitter: Are you addicted to watching cat/dog videos online?  Find out how these mini pet therapy breaks can be helping your productivity; check out #lovecatvids

Facebook: Why do we love watching cat and dog videos online?  Are they timewasters of a refreshing psychologic break that refreshes us?  Get the answers in my blog post: http://wp.me/p3QRy0-f38



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