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posted by hubie on Wednesday November 15 2023, @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).

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Thursday November 16 2023, @03:14AM (7 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Thursday November 16 2023, @03:14AM (#1333105)

    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.

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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:10AM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:10AM (#1333111)

    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.

    🌻🌻 []
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:16AM (1 child)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:16AM (#1333112)

      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.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17 2023, @11:40AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17 2023, @11:40AM (#1333261)

        Well, they are!

        I certainly haven't mastered the art of getting fed by a beg...that will only get me shooed.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by SpockLogic on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:38AM (2 children)

      by SpockLogic (2762) on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:38AM (#1333113)

      Remember that dogs have masters but cats have staff.

      Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @11:09AM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @11:09AM (#1333137)

        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."

        🌻🌻 []
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by cmdrklarg on Thursday November 16 2023, @07:04PM

        by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 16 2023, @07:04PM (#1333186)

        Yep. Cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt. They haven't forgotten.

        The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.
  • (Score: 3, Touché) by choose another one on Thursday November 16 2023, @12:28PM

    by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 16 2023, @12:28PM (#1333141)

    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...]