If you’re a pet owner, it will likely come as no surprise that a recent study by the University of Michigan found that owning a pet comes with an enormous amount of health benefits—especially as it pertains to older adults. But, when it comes to the issue of the happiness these wonderful furry creatures provide, pet owners been sharply divided on at least one question since the beginning of time: Will owning a dog or owning a cat make you a happier person?
Now, newly reported findings from the General Social Survey may finally provide an answer for this age-old debate. Suffice it to say, it’s less-than-great news for cat lovers.
Of those polled, dog owners reported greater levels of happiness.
According to the survey, 39 percent of American families don’t own a pet, 33 percent only own a dog, 11 percent only own a cat, 14 percent own both, and the other 4 percent have a small animal such as a bird or a lizard.
When asked if they were “very happy,” 36 percent of dog owners said “yes”—versus only 18 percent of cat owners. People who owned both a dog and a cat also reported even lower levels of happiness than those who only cared for a trusty canine (28 percent). Those who owned no pets at all were happier than you might expect (32 percent). What’s more, dog owners were also more likely than cat owners to seek comfort from their pet, play with them, and consider them a member of the family.
However, as noted by Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post, correlation does not equal causation, and there may be other factors at play here, especially when it comes to something as complex as happiness.
The survey’s data indicates that dog owners are more likely to be married, and previous research has shown that people who are married tend to be a little more chipper in general than their divorced or single counterparts.
Also, a 2016 study found that dog owners were more extroverted, more agreeable, and less neurotic than cat owners, so dog owners may simply be happier to begin with. Cat owners, meanwhile, may argue that the point of having a cat isn’t to be “happy” so much as to gaze upon their mysterious majesty from a polite distance. As Terry Pratchett once said: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” Their independence is very much part of their appeal.
I’d like to also note some of the abilities that dogs possess that cats simply do not, which may be relevant to the issue of pet-owner happiness.
Recent studies have shown that dogs can smell seizures before they begin, detect cancer in its early stages, and alert an owner suffering from diabetes when his or her blood sugar levels are dipping dangerously low.
Other studies have found that dogs are unique in that they evolved to completely depend on humans for survival, which is possibly why the canine-human bond is as strong as it is.
So if you’re a cat lover, you can react to this study the same way your cat would react to a bowl of spoiled milk. But if you’re a dog lover, feel free to send it over to all of your feline-obsessed friends as proof that dogs are the absolute best. And for more proof that animals are amazing in any form, check out the 30 Mind-Blowing Health Benefits of Owning a Pet.
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