Cat videos may be good for our health; a key to finickiness?


Health benefits of … cat videos?

Apparently, cat videos on the Internet don’t just make us laugh — they may also deliver health benefits, based on a study recently published online in Computers in Human Behavior.

According to Jessica Gall Myrick — a media psychology researcher at Indiana University in Bloomington — watching these videos can boost your energy, heighten your positive feelings while decreasing your negative emotions.

“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,” explained Myrick. “If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.”

In October 2014, Myrick sent a survey to cat lovers online, asking how often they viewed cat videos and images — and how they recalled feeling before and after their recent viewing. The survey spread over the Internet from cat site to cat site, and with a boost from Facebook, Myrick received close to 7,000 replies. For example, the average respondent watched cat-related content anywhere from daily to two to three times per week. The respondents were more likely to currently own a cat, or to have previously owned a cat.

Most of the time, people were not actively seeking out these videos. More frequently, viewers stumbled upon cat-related content on social media platforms like Facebook. But regardless of how it was discovered, the majority of people reported feeling more positive emotions — like hope and happiness – and tended to watch even more cat content to keep generating these happy feelings.

A possible key to finickiness

According to research published in the journal BMC Neuroscience, cat taste receptors respond in a different way to bitter compounds as compared with human receptors. The study provides a glimmer into how domestic cats perceive bitterness in food at a molecular level — and this could possibly offer an explanation why cats are sometimes picky eaters.

The ability to detect bitter chemicals is thought to have evolved as a way for cats to avoid toxic compounds found in some plants. All cats — large and small — are carnivores that consume little plant material. Domestic cats, however, may still encounter bitter flavors in foods and medicine.

Domestic cats have a reputation for being finicky in their dietary choices, and this could possibly be explained by their perception of bitter — which differs from that of other mammals because of variations in their bitter receptors. It is the goal of many food and pharmaceutical manufacturers to identify compounds that either block or alter bitter perception — in an effort to create a more palatable product.


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