‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Shows a Cat Is the Emotional Support Pet We All Need in an Apocalypse

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If you woke up one day to find that noise-triggered killer aliens have possessed the entire planet, you might think that the last thing you’d need is, say, a cat that might attract their attention. But for the main characters of A Quiet Place: Day One—the horror franchise prequel that hit movie theaters June 28—a service cat named Frodo is a big reason an unlikely duo can evade the extraterrestrial creatures.

Sure, Frodo had nervous moviegoers biting their nails as he moseys around a monster-infested New York City, but the cat has a greater purpose, too: Frodo shows us how helpful pets can be when times get tough (like apocalypse tough) particularly for people living with chronic illnesses.

We see Frodo give its owner Sam (Lupita Nyong’o), a terminally ill cancer patient, the comfort she needs when receiving treatment in a hospice facility and later when she’s writhing in pain after running out of her medication. Then when Frodo wanders right outside a flooded subway and finds an anxiety-ridden Eric (Joseph Quinn), the cat’s hypnotizing calm is enough to ease his panicked breathing and lead him to Sam. The two eventually meet and develop a complicated but powerful bond that ultimately helps them survive.

“The presence of an animal can actually create physiological changes in our body to calm anxiety and help us feel centered,” Jody Thomas, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in medical trauma and pain in Denver, tells SELF. And when you’re surrounded by chaos, whether it’s vicious aliens or upsetting results from your latest blood test, “pets aren’t nearly as affected,” if at all, she says. “Pets are the calm in the storm.”

This couldn’t be more apparent in the film. As the aliens wreak cinematic havoc, Frodo appears totally unaffected and often scopes out uncharted territory for fun, leaving anxious (and uncomfortably quiet) viewers sweating in their seats. In real life, a pet’s blissful ignorance can help people with chronic conditions forget about their own stress and pain, and help reduce harmful behaviors like catastrophic thinking and hypervigilance, which is when you constantly stress over potential threats. “Having pets is literally the ultimate mindfulness activity,” Dr. Thomas says.

Decades of research suggests that people have higher levels of pain-reducing endorphins and hormones like oxytocin and prolactin when interacting with animals, and that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. All of which means your little buddy may help you de-stress, Dr. Thomas says.

And of course, service animals are trained to help reduce the burden of all sorts of chronic conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, and some allergies. Some studies have even suggested that owning a cat can improve people’s chances of recovering from heart attack or stroke; caring for fish encourages teens with type 1 diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels; and playing with guinea pigs may lower anxiety in children with autism.

In some cases, like Sam (and eventually, Eric) in the movie, they can also give their owners a reason to live. “It can be incredibly powerful to take on the role of caretaker when you’re often the one being taken care of,” Dr. Thomas says.

And that’s exactly what the film’s writer and director Michael Sarnoski had in mind for the furry movie star, according to an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “When there’s so much going on that you feel overwhelmed by the world, being able to refocus on the things that really matter and make us feel like human beings is essential.”


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