5 Ways Cats Are Great Therapy for Depression in Kids

When it comes to mental health issues, depression is one of the most prevalent. In fact, 300 million people all over the world suffer from depression, not counting the ones who have not been diagnosed. 

Unfortunately, due to the stigma that comes with mental health disorders, most people who are depressed are often left without help or are not properly diagnosed.

Even children aren’t an exception when it comes to depression. In the past year alone, 3.1 million adolescents aged between 12 and 17 have experienced a major depressive episode in the United States. Not only that, 2% to 3% of children aged 6 to 12 may be suffering from serious depression.

cute cat standing

ust like with adults, young girls are more likely to suffer from depression than boys with 19.4% of them experiencing a major depressive episode compared to the 6.4% of boys. Sadly, only 19% of children suffering from depression have actually seen professional treatment.

Kids sufferers tend to feel sad, alone, hopeless, worthless, and depression can become disruptive to the child’s life.

Can a Pet be the Answer?

Depression in kids must be handled immediately because it can be quite persistent and one of the most effective ways to do this is by getting your child a furry companion.

Animals have been known to be therapeutic for people, especially dogs, which are often favored more than others especially by animal-assisted therapy providers. The UCLA People-Animal Connection, for example, only works with dogs and the Therapet, based in Tyler, Texas, has over 90 dogs in its rosters but only have 5 cats.

But little do most people know that cats are one of the best therapeutic animals to have especially for kids with depression. Normal cats can be trained and certified as therapy cats. In fact, they’re even better than dogs because they will not tolerate your kid’s bad behavior. They don’t appreciate roughhousing, yelling, and are not as accepting as dogs which would push your child to work on his/her social skills in order to develop a relationship with the pet cat.

Here are 5 ways cats help kids suffering from depression.

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Responsibility, Structure, and Distraction

The responsibility that comes with having a pet will have positive effects on children with depression. Since it often leaves a mess and emotions a jumble of confusion, the structure and order that come with caring for a cat are a welcoming relief in the kid’s life.

The responsibility itself may be a distraction but it can also give your kid a renewed sense of purpose. That way, even if your kid becomes depressed about something such as in school, with friends, or even at home, it may make him/her feel better knowing that someone, or rather something, is relying on him/her.

That in itself can help boost your child’s self-esteem especially since kids with depression often feel lost and without purpose.

However, before you do give your child a cat, you must first orient him/her on what responsibilities he/she will have to his/her new pet. Animals aren’t toys and they must be treated with love and respect.

Stress Relief

Cats offer a soothing presence which is especially important during times that your kid feels awful. Stress isn’t good for anyone, especially those already burdened by mental illnesses like depression. Cats help with anxiety and depression in a way that they provide a soothing presence to the burdened.

Playing with cats can increase the level of serotonin and dopamine in your kid which could help him/her become more relaxed and calm. Cats can alter your kid’s behavior especially in times of excessive stress just by being what they are: playful cats.

Imagine your kid coming home from a stressful day at school feeling awful about himself/herself when all of a sudden, his/her beloved pet comes marching towards him/her and starts purring. That alone can instantly lighten up his/her mood.

Promotes Physical Contact

Do not underestimate the healing power of physical touch. Our bodies respond positively to consensual touch from other people. When we are in physical contact with others, such as hugging, holding hands, or even kissing, our bodies release hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that are responsible for the feeling of happiness.

Now, the same way can be said when people hold their pets. Even the simple act of petting your cat and stroking its fur will bring positive effects to your kid, helping to reduce blood pressure while promoting a happier state of mind.

Companionship

Cats make for great companions. Pop culture has always portrayed cats as elusive and emotionally-detached creatures which think of themselves higher than their owners. Thankfully, there is no actual truth to that; seeing as cats can actually be affectionate.

Sure, they do love their independence from time-to-time but cats crave attention too. When you have a cat around your kid, he or she may never feel alone and will be constantly entertained by the clinginess, or sometimes stinginess, of his or her feline companion.

While the cat may not actually fill for the companionship offered by other people, it would be a great help in directing your kid towards the right path.

It also makes proper sense how strong an attachment a person can develop with the cat seeing as that its brain is closer to that of humans than a dog’s. Cats have similar brain regions to humans that are responsible for emotions, making them the more emotional creature.

Unconditional Love

The cat will love your kid for whatever he/she is regardless of anything that might turn other people off. Cats will not judge your kid nor will it demand anything from him/her apart from the occasional attention.

With cats, there will be no drama or disappointments, for the relationship that they offer is a simpler one. This knowledge can definitely help kids who have trouble socializing and maintaining friendships.

An asian girl kissing a kitten out of love

The Bottom Line

Cats are exceptional creatures and loyal companions that can help children suffering from depression. They may be stingy at times but they could also be quite affectionate. Kids would have no problem forming a tight bond with their feline pets and this could definitely help them find the path towards recovery.

Depression is such an unfortunate thing to happen, especially to kids but the reality is that it does not choose who it will attach to. When you suspect your child may be suffering from depression, take him/her immediately to a professional.

Afterward, it will be your job to help him/her get through his/her depression and getting a pet cat can surely ease up the journey.

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