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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). https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672231203417


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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @12:51PM (18 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @12:51PM (#1333143)

    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.

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  • (Score: 2) by aafcac on Thursday November 16 2023, @01:19PM (16 children)

    by aafcac (17646) on Thursday November 16 2023, @01:19PM (#1333146)

    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.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:22PM (15 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:22PM (#1333150)

      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.

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      • (Score: 4, Funny) by Reziac on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:54PM (12 children)

        by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:54PM (#1333158) Homepage

        [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.

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        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @03:50PM (11 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @03:50PM (#1333168)

          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.

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          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:27PM (10 children)

            by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 16 2023, @04:27PM (#1333170) Homepage

            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

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            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @07:01PM (9 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @07:01PM (#1333185)

              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...

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              • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday November 16 2023, @08:02PM (8 children)

                by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 16 2023, @08:02PM (#1333196) Homepage

                And here I've been hunting for a little truck... not to replace the big truck, but so I can park in normal spots. :)

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                • (Score: 3, Funny) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 16 2023, @09:53PM (7 children)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 16 2023, @09:53PM (#1333204)

                  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.

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                  • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday November 16 2023, @11:32PM (6 children)

                    by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 16 2023, @11:32PM (#1333212) Homepage

                    [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.]

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                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday November 17 2023, @01:53AM (5 children)

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday November 17 2023, @01:53AM (#1333223)

                      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.

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                      • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday November 17 2023, @02:16AM (4 children)

                        by Reziac (2489) on Friday November 17 2023, @02:16AM (#1333228) Homepage

                        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...

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                        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday November 17 2023, @02:24AM (3 children)

                          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday November 17 2023, @02:24AM (#1333229)

                          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...

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                          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday November 17 2023, @03:01AM (2 children)

                            by Reziac (2489) on Friday November 17 2023, @03:01AM (#1333233) Homepage

                            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.)

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                            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday November 17 2023, @03:30AM (1 child)

                              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday November 17 2023, @03:30AM (#1333235)

                              I think ethanol contributed to the rust in my fuel filler pipe on the '99... I buy ethanol free for it.

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                              • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday November 17 2023, @03:57AM

                                by Reziac (2489) on Friday November 17 2023, @03:57AM (#1333237) Homepage

                                Likely so.

                                And it does horrible things to unprotected rubber.

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      • (Score: 2) by aafcac on Thursday November 16 2023, @06:20PM (1 child)

        by aafcac (17646) on Thursday November 16 2023, @06:20PM (#1333180)

        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.

        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday November 17 2023, @03:08AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Friday November 17 2023, @03:08AM (#1333234) Homepage

          Sounds like autocorrupt is working normally.

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  • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:39PM

    by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 16 2023, @02:39PM (#1333154) Homepage

    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.

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