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posted by hubie on Wednesday November 15, @11:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the do-you-want-to-pet-my-kitty? dept.

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."

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


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by vux984 on Thursday November 16, @01:31AM (9 children)

    by vux984 (5045) on Thursday November 16, @01:31AM (#1333094)

    "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.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Joe Desertrat on Thursday November 16, @01:42AM (4 children)

    by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Thursday November 16, @01:42AM (#1333095)

    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.

    Still less work and stress than a baby.

    • (Score: 3, Disagree) by tekk on Thursday November 16, @02:10AM

      by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 16, @02:10AM (#1333100)

      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.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16, @04:06AM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16, @04:06AM (#1333109)

      Absolutely.

      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.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Friday November 17, @11:31AM

        by anubi (2828) on Friday November 17, @11:31AM (#1333259) Journal

        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.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by vux984 on Friday November 17, @12:02AM

      by vux984 (5045) on Friday November 17, @12:02AM (#1333214)

      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.

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Thursday November 16, @01:59AM (2 children)

    by looorg (578) on Thursday November 16, @01:59AM (#1333097)

    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. :/

    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.

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday November 16, @03:27PM (1 child)

      by Freeman (732) on Thursday November 16, @03:27PM (#1333163) Journal

      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.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 2) by vux984 on Thursday November 16, @11:48PM

        by vux984 (5045) on Thursday November 16, @11:48PM (#1333213)

        "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.

  • (Score: 2) by UncleBen on Friday November 17, @02:06PM

    by UncleBen (8563) on Friday November 17, @02:06PM (#1333284)

    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.