Amy Byres / Observer staff writer

When people hear the word “cat” they think of a hissing, mean, snobby, untrainable pet that doesn’t show appreciation and affection; well, that’s not my purrfect cat-child.

A few cat lovers and I attended Love is a Warm and Furry Thing at Meadowlark Senior Center last week.

This event educated senior citizens and myself on the positive effect pets have on their owners.

In terms of improving mental health, cats are the best kind of therapy. Jeri Ramrath was a speaker at the event. She said owning a pet can lower blood pressure, reduce the feeling of loneliness and stimulate a person to be more social.

According to research on animal-assisted therapy by UCLA Health, “Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin — all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.”

In my own experience, I feel comfort from having my cat. My cat’s name is Nyx, and she is a Blue Russian.

Being able to release some of my anxieties and stress by petting her and being around my cat is a part of my daily routine.

Some people don’t take the time to appreciate what a cat could truly be. A cat could be your best friend.

When thinking of animal-assisted therapy, the first animals you think of are dogs. Dogs are, more often than not, the therapy animal of choice.

Dogs can be trained to do amazing things but when it comes to mental health, I believe any animal can bring comfort.

The assumption when owning a cat is that it takes care of itself and is a lot less needy than a dog.

Our cat expert, Ramrath, would disagree. Cats, like dogs, require training.

My cat is trained to not go on kitchen countertops, not to scratch furniture and to know that “love bites” are not OK.

Ramrath said if a cat is over-stimulated, it will give a “love bite.”

While dogs show affection on command and show a greater response (tail wagging, jumping up and down), cats prefer to be loved in their own way.

When I wake up in the morning, my cat is lying on me, purring as she sleeps peacefully. Because of this, I wake up happy. This also makes getting up that much harder.

When I get home from work, she wakes up, probably from her 11th nap of the day, and meows as she walks over to greet me. Every time Nyx does this, I always think how cute she is and my stress from the day melts off.

As most dog owners know, their dogs would love affection 24/7. Whether it be scratches or playing fetch in the backyard, this is not completely opposite of cats.

My cat does prefer less attention than a dog traditionally does. However, she is still very snuggly and I couldn’t ask for a better pet.

So take measures for your mental health and consider a cat for a companion.