When my now-husband brought up the idea of getting a cat one week after asking me to marry him, I flat-out laughed in his face. Up until then, I was a dog person (don't @ me), and I thought cats were nasty creatures that walked on tables, hissed, and, from what I could tell, didn’t care about a damn thing humans had to say. But then I met our sweet tabby, Aria, and it was love at first sight. These days, Aria’s my fur baby, and I've learned it’s good to talk to your cat, because even when they pretend not to acknowledge your existence, their ears perk up at everything you say. Plus, they’re definitely eavesdropping on all the conversations you’re having around them, especially the ones where you're complaining to your SO about your precious kitty digging her dainty claws into your leather chair (true story).
To my surprise, I've come to learn that cats are very intuitive, and actually quite nurturing. I know it might sound odd to someone who isn't really an animal person in general, but the more I confide in Aria, the more in-tune she is — or at least, seems to be — with what I’m feeling. The bond between a mother and her fur baby is proving to be unlike any friendship I’ve ever experienced, even if the conversations are mostly one-sided (she'll offer up a "meow" every once in a while, and it's very much appreciated).
Even though you and your cat don’t exactly speak the same language, experts say talking to them like you would a friend or family member will ultimately strengthen the bond you share.
The first time I realized Aria and I didn’t just co-exist in this tiny one-bedroom apartment, and that our relationship was more than just her being something soft to pet when I'm bored, was when I caught the flu this past winter. For three weeks straight, Aria curled up beside my legs in bed and followed me everywhere — from the bedroom, to the kitchen, to the bathroom. I'd been complaining days before the bug attacked my immune system that something in my body just felt off, and once the fever came, it was like Aria took on the role of my own personal nurse, sticking by me through every fever, sniffle, and cough. Eventually I got better, and she started roaming our living space a little more freely, but every night, she’d still lay by my side, as if to check in.
According to Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Aria's behavior in this scenario isn't unusual, and it's certainly not coincidental. See, as a pet owner, it's likely you expect some kind of give and take from your fur baby. When you give love, Forshee says, you expect love in return, and this applies to any relationship, so why would the rules change just because of a difference in species? The answer: They don't.
"Pet owners believe that they should give and receive love and affection from their animals," Forshee tells Elite Daily, adding that, along with feeding them, petting them, and smothering them with hugs and kisses, talking to your pet is what will ultimately create and perpetuate that ongoing bond. And yeah, in a perfect world, you'd only talk about good things with everyone in your life, but that's not realistic, and the best part is, your cat really doesn't care what you talk to him or her about.
Think about talking to your cat the way you would any close friend or loved one: You can vent about anything and everything — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and they'll still love you regardless. The only thing you have to be mindful of when talking to your pet is the tone and volume of your voice, Forshee tells Elite Daily. It's your presentation, she says, rather than the topic of conversation, that will really have an effect on your pet's emotions.
It might feel awkward at first, but the more you talk to your cat, the more you'll start to realize the positive impact these conversations can have on your mental health.
Whether you're a cat person, dog person, bird enthusiast, or collect goldfish in a tank, science says talking to your pet can do wonders for your mental, as well as your physical health. No, Aria probably doesn't understand when I give her timely updates on Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson's relationship, but she's definitely picked up on the tone of voice that means it's time to eat, or how my face looks when I've had a stressful day. The thing is, you really don't have to speak the same language as your pet for the both of you to understand what one another needs; you just have to communicate, and communicate often.
Forshee tells Elite Daily that even the sheer act of owning a pet can "reduce stress, help fight depression, lower blood pressure, and prevent heart disease." If these are the types of benefits you can reap from simply sharing your living space with your fur baby, imagine the effects that developing a relationship, or better yet, a friendship, can have on your health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you own a pet, and you give them all the tender love and care, you're actually less likely to feel lonely, compared to people who aren't sharing their space with a furry friend. Plus, PetMD reports there's research that suggests "talking in a happy tone" to your kitty or pup can actually improve your mood if you're feeling kind of down that day.
So do yourself a favor, regardless of how funny it feels, and strike up a conversation with your cat today. You may or may not get a meow in response, but at least you know they're listening, and that you're both benefiting from the companionship.