Cats and Science
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Science: Thinking of Cats Helps You Cope With Social Rejection

A study says looking at and thinking about pets can mitigate being spurned by horrible people. 

Michael Leaverton  |  May 13th 2016


Imagine you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone and you drift to the food table and you see your opening.

“Are those olives?” you ask a woman holding an olive.

She looks at the olive and then at you — your shoes, your pants, your hair.

“Oh my God!”  she screams in your face. “Who invited you? Why are you even here?

Ouch!

Social rejection is rough, whether it’s at the food table or spread across your entire childhood. Recovering from it can be hard. In the above example, your first instinct might be to go home and play with your cat, after you dump the olive bowl on that creep’s head and smear hummus all over the walls. And it turns out you’d be right! At least the going-home-to-your-cat part. Science says so!

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Probably not the best place to bring your cat if you’re going through a rough time, is all we’ll say. Via Shutterstock

Science, it seems, has come through again on the side of the cats, this time in relation to us humans being rejected and humiliated on the daily out there in the great big world. A study by researchers at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania and Miami University in Ohio found that just thinking about cats could provide relief from social rejection, and we’re rejoicing, for we are no stranger to cats and — if you’ll allow us to lie on the couch for a second — social rejection. Well, no more than anyone else, we suppose, which is to say the usual amount for people moving about in the world — which sometimes feels like a lot!

Anyway, back to the study.

Led by Christina M. Brown, the study involved 106 volunteers who, in a series of experiments, were asked to recall painful episodes of social rejection and then were shown pictures of cats, dogs, or humans, and asked to name them. Then they took a test to measure their well-being. Those who named cats and dogs reported less negative emotions and feelings of rejection than those who named the humans.

According to the study, “Collectively, these results suggest that briefly thinking about cats or dogs is an effective strategy for improving feelings of social rejection and that general processes involving anthropomorphism can produce this ameliorative effect.”

Brown said that we “would benefit from even the most minimal engagement with animals.”

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Cat providing comfort to man, in his own way. Via Shutterstock

The funny thing about this study? It did not distinguish between a cat who is sort of aloof and coy with his affections and rarely even recognizes that you’ve been gone all day at work, like my dear Stella, as opposed to your typical dog, who acts like you just got into Harvard every time you come home from the dry cleaners.

But perhaps that will be in the next study. For now, we’ve got a general decree that cats (and dogs) mediate the effects of social rejection, and for that we can rejoice — and work up the confidence to attend an upcoming party that’s been giving us some low-level anxiety as of late, perhaps by wearing a shirt with our cat’s picture on it.

Via Science Daily