Besides observing your high school classmates from afar and trying to get your favorite celebrities to notice you, social media is really just a tool for you to share cat videos, if we’re being honest. Twitter is abuzz with Grumpy Cat GIFs, Instagram has actual accounts for people’s cats, and Facebook has an LOL-worthy video of a cat knocking over a glass every ten posts. Cat videos are inescapable.
Not that anybody wants to escape them. If the statistics are correct, the human population has decided we want more cat videos. The Pew Research Center reports that animals (especially cats) are among the most popular subjects in YouTube videos. And 45 percent of YouTube users who uploaded a video in 2013 shared at least one video of their own pet. One upload from December 2016—which shows a 10-minute compilation of the funniest cat videos—has racked up 68 million views.
So why the internet cat video obsession? Is this just (yet another) form of modern-day procrastination?
One researcher wanted to see if avid watchers of cat videos are reaping more benefits than just a chuckle. A 2015 study from Computers in Human Behavior surveyed around 6,800 people to find possible links among watching cat videos and emotions, motivations, and personality traits.
Here’s what the study found: Watching cat videos was associated with reduced stress, sadness, and anxiety for survey participants. In fact, the mood boost from a quick cat video sesh was so great that it overpowered any possible guilt participants felt about procrastinating.
This study finding plays into what experts already know about stress: Sometimes you need a break. Unmanaged stress can affect both your physical and mental health, resulting in possible symptoms like digestive problems, poor sleep quality, and risky compulsive behavior, according to the American Institute of Stress. (Here are all the surprising ways stress and anxiety can affect your body.)
Stress overload can cloud your decision-making skills and make work feel more challenging, so it’s not surprising that about 56 percent of employees report that their stress and anxiety negatively impacts their workplace performance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
In times of stress, a quick timeout can help clear your head and possibly help you work more effectively afterward. Diving into the internet’s endless gallery of cat videos (or using other stress-reducing techniques) might benefit both your health and work performance.
So go ahead and cue up a cat video every now and then, no guilt attached. And if you’re an actual cat owner, even better. You can get the same health perks IRL from the kitty who holds court on your living room loveseat: Here’s more on how your pet is making you a lot healthier.