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Animal Cams: Relaxation for the Mind

July 03, 2013

Story at-a-glance

  • For animal lovers, a live webcam aimed on almost anything non-human is impossible to resist. Often – and especially if the critters are cute – watching animals stimulates the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good hormone.
  • For many people, watching a live webcam provides a nice break from work responsibilities. It’s somehow cathartic to watch animals do what they do, unscripted
  • Animal Planet LIVE, in collaboration with the Washington Animal Rescue League, the Audubon Nature Institute, the National Aquarium and the South Mountain Creamery, has made available several live animal webcams featuring everything from cockroaches to bison.

By Dr. Becker

There’s something about live webcams that is slightly addicting.

The idea that you can be at your desk at work or on your couch at home watching life go on in real time in some other, distant place is intriguing.

And for animal lovers, a live webcam aimed at almost any species is nearly irresistible. One of the reasons is because watching cute animals triggers the brain’s pleasure centers to release one of the “happy hormones,” dopamine.

Oriana Aragon, a Yale University graduate student in psychology who is studying the effects of "cute" animals on the human psyche, says for lots of people the live webcam is relaxing. It allows the mind to take a break from work tasks.

"It's like the popularity of reality shows; these are animals doing what they do best, unscripted, fun, crazy, wacky stuff," said Bob Rimon, chief executive officer of the Washington Animal Rescue League. "It's cathartic to watch them. I feel like I'm going to shut my brain down and have pure fun."

Animal Planet LIVE

In response to animal webcam fever, Animal Planet has partnered with the Washington Animal Rescue League, the Audubon Nature Institute, the National Aquarium and the South Mountain Creamery to develop a website loaded with animal webcams.

The network placed webcams in a variety of locations to record the activity of kittens, puppies, penguins, ants, jellyfish, baby calves, tropical reef fish, and assorted other critters. (Obviously, some of these critters are cuter than others!)

According to the New York Times, during the first six months Animal Planet’s kitten cam was online it was watched more than 25 million times, and the average viewer stayed on the page almost 20 minutes.

Some of the channels have commercial interruptions, so be prepared. Also, if you see a banner at the bottom of the webcam screen that says the channel is offline, give it a few seconds to go live.

At the time I clicked through the webcams at Animal Planet LIVE, virtually every creature except the fish and ants were napping. I’m sure you’ll have better luck!

This is the Pacific Reef Cam. Very relaxing!

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