If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cute cat videos online, the effect may be more profound than you think.
The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, does more than simply entertain; it boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings, according to a study by an Indiana University Media School researcher.
The study, by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods
“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,” Myrick said. “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.”
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
Internet data show that as far back as four years ago, there were more than 2 million cat videos posted on YouTube, with almost 26 billion views! In fact, cat videos had more views per video than any other category of YouTube content.
Of the participants in the study, about 36 percent described themselves as a “cat person,” while about 60 percent said they liked both cats and dogs.
Participants in Myrick’s study reported:
- They were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat videos.
- They had fewer negative emotions
- They often view Internet cats at work or during studying.
- The pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating.
- Cat owners and people with certain personality traits, such as agreeableness and shyness, were more likely to watch cat videos.
- About 25 percent of the cat videos they watched were ones they sought out
- They were familiar with many so-called “celebrity cats,” such as Nala Catand Henri, Le Chat Noir.
“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.
The results also suggest that future work could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost therapy, she said.