The vast majority of dog and cat owners will say their pets enrich their lives in countless ways and bring immeasurable levels of extra happiness, but researchers from Michigan State University suggest that most pet owners may just be telling themselves what they want to hear. Their new study found that despite owners claiming pets improve their lives, researchers did not see a reliable association between pet ownership and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic:
The pandemic was a stressful time for everyone, to put it lightly. Even the most laid-back among us found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdowns and social distancing guidelines that dominated 2020. So, the research team at MSU theorized that the pandemic represented an ideal time to study just how much comfort and happiness pets really provide to their families.In all, the study authors assessed a total of 767 people on three separate occasions in May 2020. The research team opted to adopt a mixed-method approach that allowed them to simultaneously assess several indicators of well-being, all while also asking participants to reflect on the role of pets from their point of view in an open-ended manner. Generally, pet owners predictably reported their pets made them happy. More specifically, they said their pets helped them feel more positive emotions and provided affection and companionship.On the other hand, the participants also articulated the dark side of pet ownership, such as worries related to their pet's well-being or having their pets interfere with working remotely.[...] "People say that pets make them happy, but when we actually measure happiness, that doesn't appear to be the case," says William Chopik, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Psychology and co-author of the study, in a university release. "People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it's unlikely that it'll be as transformative as people think."
The pandemic was a stressful time for everyone, to put it lightly. Even the most laid-back among us found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdowns and social distancing guidelines that dominated 2020. So, the research team at MSU theorized that the pandemic represented an ideal time to study just how much comfort and happiness pets really provide to their families.
In all, the study authors assessed a total of 767 people on three separate occasions in May 2020. The research team opted to adopt a mixed-method approach that allowed them to simultaneously assess several indicators of well-being, all while also asking participants to reflect on the role of pets from their point of view in an open-ended manner. Generally, pet owners predictably reported their pets made them happy. More specifically, they said their pets helped them feel more positive emotions and provided affection and companionship.
On the other hand, the participants also articulated the dark side of pet ownership, such as worries related to their pet's well-being or having their pets interfere with working remotely.
[...] "People say that pets make them happy, but when we actually measure happiness, that doesn't appear to be the case," says William Chopik, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Psychology and co-author of the study, in a university release. "People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it's unlikely that it'll be as transformative as people think."
As a lifetime pet owner who's had at least a dozen dogs over the years, I take umbrage with the study's findings. My dogs are always thrilled to see me when I arrive home from a long, tiring day of work, and taking them for a walk or just being in their presence immediately lifts my spirits. And I remember the calming effect petting a cat had for my ex-wife when she was pregnant and having a bad day.
Journal Reference:Chopik, W. J., Oh, J., Weidmann, R., et al. (2023). The Perks of Pet Ownership? The Effects of Pet Ownership on Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672231203417
When I was 8 dad brought 3 kittens home from work, 1 for each of us kids. I'm retired now and I think I've been without a cat for maybe 2 years total ever since.
I find my cats very comforting. Dogs too, I just don't have one now.
I suspect it probably depends on how you view the pet. When I grew up we had a cat and for the most part she mostly did improve our happiness. But she was our pet and not our child. We did make sure she was cared for, but she stayed indoors and mostly chilled out and helped make sure that my parents didn't forget about the babies.
I can see people getting so obsessed over the pets that it does detract from the benefits, but I don't think that needs to be the case if you remember that they're animals.
I am a canine professional with over 50 years experience.
My observation is that pets enhance whatever mental state you're already inclined to. So pets make happy people happier, and make morose or nervous people more morose or nervous (more to worry about). People who regard pets as animals derive a lot more happiness from pets, probably =because= they're not deluding themselves that it's a child in a furry suit, with all the associated emotional baggage.
I have to admit, I did not know dogs could type.
Damn. I've been outed!
Pshaw. I'm already housebroken.
Was trying to find a way to say: people who torture their elderly pets with tooth extractions, multiple life extending surgeries, etc. tell the world they "just love their pets so much, they have to 'do everything they can'" but, I have to wonder whether or not they actually love their pets' suffering - because they certainly extend it, sometimes for many years.
The tooth extraction sucks, but my friend had a dog that lost all its teeth as a puppy due to infection and it was clearly still enjoying life.
That being said, there definitely is a time where it's just cruel to keep shoveling money trying to keep the animal alive. As hard as it was for me to go with my dad to have our 17 year old car put down, she couldn't keep any food down and likely would have starved to death before too long.
We had a 24 year old truck that my wife bought new in 1999, she couldn't "put it down" so instead we traded it for a 2019 of the same model.
[eyes 1991 truck in the driveway]
Having actually done the math on the previous truck (which I had 34 years, and it worked for a living) I found keeping running cost me on average $700/year, including all maintenance and the occasional major rebuild. This one is about on par for that, or a bit less.
Our 1999 was maintained at a similar rate - quite a bit less than $700 per year on average including things like: replacing all the hydraulic brake lines with stainless steel ($120 parts, $200 labor - we have a VERY friendly mechanic), patching the squirrel chew-hole in the top of the gas tank, a very kludgey fix to a problem feeding turn-on power to the run circuit relay, etc. Replacing the 21 year old never used spare that hung under the bed was fascinating, I had never seen tire rubber that dry before.
However, the 5.9 liter V8 was picky, it pinged on less than premium fuel, and never got much better than 15mpg highway, closer to 10mpg city. And we didn't drive it much, so it lived under a tree, and it would get smelly inside. Our other family car that we mostly drove instead of the truck is a 2002 Mercedes S430 which has lasted longer than we expected it to, but... it is getting a little flaky in its old age. So, we wanted one or the other to be replaced, and found the truck that is almost just like our old one, except 20 years newer - basically in brand new condition with 14K miles, and has a V6 with considerably more power than the 5.9 liter V8 while getting 15mpg city, 21 highway on regular fuel, and it doesn't smell bad. I miss the old truck. I miss being able to drive out the driveway with hedge trimmers, stand up in the bed and trim the bushes directly into it - sure you _could_ do that with the new truck, but it's basically just too pretty to risk the scratches and dents. It also feels like its sheet metal is about 1/2 the thickness of the 20 year older truck, which itself seemed to be about 1/2 the sheet metal thickness of the 1977 GMC it replaced, but somehow all 3 trucks still weigh about the same. I will confess: the backup camera is useful.
As for cost.... yeah, no, that wasn't efficient: $30K for the trade-up, and now I'm stuck building a carport for it which will bring the total cost closer to $50K for this truck freshening... still less than a lot of people spend on a new vehicle every 5-10 years, but... at least we have a shiny, clean, reliable for a while newer truck, with a backup camera.
LOL, mighty expensive backup camera. Reminds me of when I went shopping for a wooden toilet seat. Always wanted one, with just varnish, no paint. Well, I found one... with a house attached. So that wooden toilet seat cost me $127k. :O
Yeah, that thinning of the metal skin has been going on a long time. I remember being shocked that I couldn't carry stuff on the roof of my '78 truck, like I had my '63 car... metal was maybe half as thick. The '91 is not much worse than the '78 that way, but the dually fenders are fiberglas.
Me, I'da kept the old truck, because now you've got to get the new one all scratched up before you can use it. :P
Well, what's really happening here is that the new truck is replacing the old truck _and_ the sedan... it will take a little while to let go of the sedan, but where it used to get 95%+ of the driving, now that's flipped and the truck is used 95%+ of the time - even though we've got a bumpy 1/4 mile driveway and air suspension in the sedan (very nice ride). That S430 gets 21mpg average, but also requires premium fuel, and insurance...
And here I've been hunting for a little truck... not to replace the big truck, but so I can park in normal spots. :)
There's two Miatas in the stable for nimble parking duty.... had one since new in 1991, the other is a 99 we acquired around 2015 - pretty weird thinking we've owned that one for 8 years already. Put 'em together and you've got a 12mpg 4 seater.
[thinking] So, two half-a-cars? :)
If I disable the governor on my riding mower, it'll do 60mph.... maybe a quarter-car :O
[There's something that actually does not get good mileage, at least while working. About 8mpg.]
Every time I consider an alt- vehicle like an eMotorcycle I inevitably compare it to the $2500 Miata and it just can't compare...
Most trips we make are one or two people, so the half cars are just right for that.
I used to do a lot of driving. (Los Angeles area, unavoidable.) Now... last year I only filled up the truck once. (38 gallons.) Mostly to the feed store and back, so that one-ton's capacity is a Good Thing...
I used to daily drive the 1991 7 miles each way to/from work. I have been in to the office 6 times since initial lockdown in 2020, now I worry about the fuel in the tank getting old...
I stopped worrying about old gas after the old truck sat for a year and a half and started right up, and ran the same as ever.
I buy ethanol-free for the small engines, tho. They seem to experience a lot more clogging and rubber-anything deterioration from eth-gas, and seem far less designed to cope with it. (Also found the mower that specifically says "don't use Premium" ran WAAAAAAY better, and longer per tank, on Premium, that being what eth-free is around here.)
I think ethanol contributed to the rust in my fuel filler pipe on the '99... I buy ethanol free for it.
And it does horrible things to unprotected rubber.
On a side note, why is the android keyboard so terrible. Often it changes the word after it seems to have settled on one and it's a pain to correct it.
Sounds like autocorrupt is working normally.
I think there are a few who are inflicting their Munchausen By Proxy on their pets, yes. But most are the types who are easily guilted into believing that if they don't do EVERYTHING possible, they're failing their fur-child (this is especially common among empty-nesters). And the veterinary specialties are happy to soak 'em $20k to gain a few extra months angst over oncoming death.
IMO it's fine to do what you can both afford and makes the animal comfortable. It's ridiculous, and borders on cruel, to spend thousands of dollars to gain six extra months of misery (that's the average life extension for chemotherapy in dogs).
Some treatments are worthwhile. Extracting bad teeth (common in "purebred" cats of Siamese lineages, and in small dogs) is fairly simple and usually improves quality of life. Removing non-invasive masses (malignant or benign) to prevent chronic injury is usually a good idea. Treating something chronic but simple, like thyroid disorders, usually is worthwhile. But going above and beyond the easy and obvious medical fixes typically is not truly productive.
Unless the real motivation is to wallow in the guilt trip.
I was just reading this article on Psych Today [psychologytoday.com] about a meta-analysis of various pet studies. It was focused on depression in particular. the TL;DR is that in most cases pet ownership doesn't
make a difference, the studies where it did show a difference were lower quality, but that some of the studies show possible benefits for
people in particular life situations.
It was focused on depression in particular.
Many people are depressed due to situations like money, health, or relationships. Since those are mostly unrelated to the presence or absence of pets, it is unsurprising that adding a pet to someone's life doesn't cure depression.
As for the story's study, it took place during a massive upheaval in the status quo.
So, the research team at MSU theorized that the pandemic represented an ideal time to study just how much comfort and happiness pets really provide to their families.
Lots of people got pets that they couldn't keep, and there's a lot of stress associated with having to rehome a pet or turn it over to a shelter. Due to the irregularities surrounding the pandemic, I'm hesitant to extend their findings into assumptions about pet ownership in the future(or past). Basically I don't think it was anywhere close to an ideal time to do this kind of study.
I agree. The problem I see here is that they aren't measuring the change in happiness nor well-being. To do this better, they would have needed to measure the happiness or well-being before they got a pet, then measured it while they've had the pet for a while. Because as you noted, if their happiness level is a -10 and their pets only raise it up to a -8, then they are still in negative unhappiness.
Many people are depressed due to situations like money, health, or relationships.
Be careful not to conflate "depression" with "being depressed" due to a situation. "Depression" (not a fan of the term) is a diagnosis and possibly a treatable, persistent condition, while the situations you describe are temporary unless you live in a warzone or have a chronic illness or the like and have problems coping with it in the long-term.
True for TFS, but my link is for a meta-analysis that started with 30 studies in 2019.
Not sure about all the dates, but the article mentions one from 1999. Might need
to track down the actual paper to see all the dates. He later revised the article with findings
from meta-analysis of studies during and after the pandemic, at the bottom. It looks
like the findings didn't change much.
"My dogs are always thrilled to see me when I arrive home from a long, tiring day of work, and taking them for a walk or just being in their presence immediately lifts my spirits. And I remember the calming effect petting a cat had for my ex-wife when she was pregnant and having a bad day."
This. No question, this is true.
On the flipside... a sick pet, or an aging pet can be a massive burden. I remember my childhood pet getting cancer, and the cat I have now is healthy but has developed epilepsy and its not going to get better as she ages. :/
And for every joyful welcome when you get home, you also take on a lot of responsibility. They need frequent attention, you can't leave them alone too long, and its obnoxious to take them with you everywhere. A weekend getaway or business trip means finding someone to look after it; it's absurd in my opinion when a human is living their life around the needs of their pet. And beside all that, even a healthy pet is a mess, the incredible amounts they manage to shed, the smell and hassle of cleaning up their litter box or picking up after them every day. A joyful greeting when you get home or a lap warmer while you watch a movie -- its a lot of work and stress and even money for those moments when you think about it, and if that's all the time you really have to spend with them and they spend the rest of the day alone, its perhaps pretty selfish too.
I had a neighbour a while back, in the city, with two dogs that I'm sure spent 8-16 hours a day in his garage, usually barking; he worked long hours, and his yard was just a leopard print of dead grass and dog droppings. He liked his dogs and spent what time he could with them it seemed, but even so it really didn't sit right with me. Not everyone of course, lots of people are terrific owners and have terrific living situations to have pets in - but its definitely not a good fit for everyone.
Still less work and stress than a baby.
If I remember right the studies bear this out: this one says pets are no benefit. The baby ones find that parents are *less* happy and fulfilled than childless people.
Our cat brings us dead birds and other presents, which we try to discourage, but if he wants to run away, sleep at other people's houses, get in fights, that's his problem.
A neighborhood street cat adopted me when he found out I would feed him.
So I get the comfort of companionship, while neither of us gave up our life. He remains completely free to cat around. Not bad for a case of WalMart little friskies per month.
Sometimes a bit more if he brings friends over.
Sometimes a bit less if the neighbors are offering something better.
It's kinda like a feline cat-share.
One caveat... There is one neighbor that doesn't like cats. I'd rather have cats than mice any day.
Having had both, the difference is that:
A pet is a zero sum game, you care for it until it dies, and the only reward is whatever you got out the relationship while it lasted.A baby if all goes to plan, and you do it more or less right: the baby grows up, and becomes a self sufficient person, and a productive respected member of society with their own ideas, aspirations, and goals.
The experience of having raised someone to adulthood vs owning a pet are simply incomparable, and 'dog-parents' and the like who think their little furr-babby is somehow an equivalent experience are self-deluded morons.
Yeah, the baby might be more stress and more work for a while, but its temporary, and the rewards are incomprehensibly greater.
From my somewhat limited experience I do believe this might be it. I do believe they bring happiness, companionship and joy. It's just with their somewhat limited lifespan they also bring sadness with their eventual inevitable passing.
That is called life. Also, it may actually be better to experience a pet's passing before you experience a parent or sibling's passing for instance.
"That is called life."
A pet exists to bring its owner happiness. Yes, they get old and die, and its sad, but if you own a pet that's sick or in pain and it's vomitting, pissing, and shitting itself daily, and you can keep it alive for another 6 years with medicine, surgery, constant care and monitoring ... I think that's just wrong for everyone involved.
"Also, it may actually be better to experience a pet's passing before you experience a parent or sibling's passing for instance."
Again, it depends, which experience?
Is it 'good' to experience the loss of pet? sure in some sense yes there is a value in that experience of grief and loss.Is it good to care for a sick and dying pet for six years as a practice-run for when your mom is blind, incontinent, and suffering from dementia for her final years? No, I'm not really seeing it.
Boost this.Alll anecdata is equal. We are welcome to disagree with the study but our stories are just ours. Remember the availability heuristic: your story is more easily accessed than this study, therefore your brain thinks the story is “bigger.”
In three weeks we went from one cat to 1 cat and 2 dogs. And I can vividly say our lives are radically improved and worsened in equal measures. 11 in both directions at the same time. Do I want to get rid of the pets? Yes and no in equal extremes.
Share your stories but don’t equate them with data or an actual study.
So, the study found that people who like having pets are just as happy with pets as people who don't want pets are without them.
Well, I for one wouldn't mind a pet, but at the same time I have zero desire to take care of one.
If you own a cat (sorry I really should say "if you're owned by a cat") then you're used to being made to feel like worthless garbage. Or worse, you might even start to enjoy if it the cat owns you for long enough.
This in turns makes you less prone to feeling depressed when humans treat your like shit, or when a pandemic forces social isolation on you: it's okay, it's just like home.
That's how cats make you happier: in a very Buddhist way, by desensitizing you to rejection and training you to be content with rare moments of simulated affection.
Depends on the cat (and person). Ours is that rare type that is friendly to most people and will curl up in your lap if you let him. He doesn't always come when you call, but he does announce when he comes inside and will generally go looking for some petting soon after.
I was just kidding. Actually most of our cats have been pretty friendly and easy-going. But even the most social cats have a way to make you feel they're superior to you.
Well, they are!
I certainly haven't mastered the art of getting fed by a beg...that will only get me shooed.
Remember that dogs have masters but cats have staff.
Yes, but dogs' masters are even more obliged to cater to their pets' needs than cats staff are. A cat can get by on an automatic food and water dish for the weekend (although some with leave negative feedback in the comment box....). Dogs need their walks twice or more daily or they have "accidents."
Yep. Cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt. They haven't forgotten.
Actually cat's make you happier, towards cats, by infecting you with a behaviour-changing parasite - look up Toxoplasma gondii.
[reality is more like parasite spreads by cats eating prey, natural selection favours parasite that changes prey behaviour to be more accepting of cats and more likely to get eaten, and yes we are prey for felines, they just have to get big enough...]
By "security" I don't mean the meanest pack of Dobermans, trained to attack. Dogs have better sensory perception than humans. When dogs are disturbed, frightened, or merely curious, they tend to make a lot of racket, alerting the alpha member of the pack to intrusions. The most worthless lapdog makes a pretty good alarm system. A home intrusion isn't going very far before your dog alerts you to it. Not to mention that all the racket can frighten away home intruders before the situation becomes dangerous.
Many, maybe even most, dogs are rather cowardly, and they aren't going to attack the intruder. That's your job as the pack's alpha member. The dog may or may not join you in the attack, but you're still the alpha, and you must lead the way. Only those specially trained guard dogs will lead the attack, or a rare dog that is especially brave.
If you live in a bad section of town, it's reassuring to know your dog will awaken you before any intruder is standing over you with a knife.
From your previous posts, wouldn't you be better off with a gun?
Just sayin'! ;)
I mean, if you're asleep that gun isn't going to do squat for you. Dogs are great for just scaring away would be intruders as well. I mean, a Chihuahua isn't going to do much, but a lot of times the would be intruder doesn't want added noise. Due to the fact that they don't want to be caught and extra noise is a good way to draw attention to oneself.
As Freeman already pointed out, an entire armory is useless if I'm not awake to deal with the intruder. My dog has better ears and nose than I do. Her eyes are only little better than mine, but her eyes are open long before mine are.
On the other hand, the participants also articulated the dark side of pet ownership, such as worries related to their pet's well-being or having their pets interfere with working remotely [studyfinds.org].
On the other hand, i also articulated the dark side of being married, such as worries related to my wifes' leukemia and her over-all health.
On the other hand, i also articulated the dark side of having a severely autistic son, such as how he makes us lose sleep and he is a CONSTANT (if i could only use one word to describe him, it would have to be CONSTANT).
Would i get rid of them? No. They both provide me with good things i need and make me, over-all, a happier person.
Just because there is a negative to something, it doesn't mean it doesn't provide more positives which make it a good thing over-all. "OH NOES: eating ass-cream can give yu a ass-cream headache, so eating ass-cream is a bad thing! Horribles... donut eat them!"
Stupid study produces stupid results. 'nough said?
I wonder if children really bring humans happiness or improve their well-being. My wife and I couldn't have children because our cats were allergic to them.
Even the most laid-back among us found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdowns and social distancing guidelines that dominated 2020.
Their extroversion is showing here with this quote. For those of us on the introverted side of the scale, the lockdowns and social distancing was not at all overwhelming. In fact, it was often a relief having an excuse to not be "there".
I'd say that's not at all surprising, considering that previous studies have found no statistically significant change in people's long-term happiness even from major things like amputations, winning the lottery, or having kids.
It seems your happiness is primarily determined by how happy a person you are. Outside stimulus generally only has a transient effect, long term changes require that you actually practice changing you state of mind, enjoying what you have, etc. Or suffer psychological trauma, but that's not the direction most people want a change in.
A pet can provide companionship, which is definitely comforting and enjoyable, but happiness comes from within.
Wait, no I think I lie: I half-remember having kids being one of the things that fairly reliably lowers happiness a bit.
...and I suspect that has not been accounted for in the study. I waited to get a dog until I could be with the dog all day. My dog's primary job has been to get me out of the house, and that works because I am devoted to my dog. We stay ACTIVE together -- everything from fetch to bike and scooter and skates with the dog RUNNING and swimming off-leash (because walking is NOT exercise for a dog).
My dog is very fit. When she was 2, people gave me dirty looks because they thought she was under-fed (the vet said we were just fine). One time, a lady saw us walking through a parking lot, jammed on her brakes, and came running at me with a $20 bill: "Here, so you and your dog can get some food." ... because many people have NO idea what a healthy dog looks like, since very many dogs are overweight.
Caveat: "During the covid 19 pandemic"
..when pet dogs and cats were seen as vehicles for the virus