Research: Do Canine Or Cats Make Folks Happiest?

We all know the phrase ‘fighting like cats and dogs.’ But there should really also be another one for ‘fighting like cat and dog people.’ Personally, I love both cats and dogs so I can’t fully relate. But many tend to debate whether cat or dog parenthood is more beneficial. Does having a dog make one happier than having a cat or vice versa?

Brad Stennerson, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist with the University of Oklahoma, recently wrote an opinion on the subject for Psychology Today. The author rated the happiness both types of pets provide based on three categories: Ability to provide comfort or boost mood, level of attachment and social connection, and impact on our activity levels.

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Comfort And Mood-Boosting

In this category, Stennerson declared no clear winner. The short of it is: the available data isn’t really conclusive. Many studies have indicated that having either a cat or a dog can lower stress levels and improve mood. Others indicate no correlation, though one thing to consider is the difference in how dogs and cats can be studied. After all, cats tend not to do what you want them to. They make difficult test subjects.

Stennerson explains the complicated nature of studying the mood effects of living with cats or dogs:

“For one, people with depression may disproportionally own pets, skewing depression scores of the pet-owning population. Additionally, the instruments used by researchers to measure mood may have missed important effects because they simply weren’t measuring for them.”

The fact of the matter is: this aspect of dog or cat parenthood is really hard to study. Some people may be affected differently by earning a cat’s purr or a dog’s sweet licks. Maybe certain people end up with more independent animals.

The way I see it is: if you believe your dog or cat makes you happy, then your dog or cat makes you happy!

Social Connection

Many of us feel deep, emotional connections with our dogs and cats. But when it comes to the way your animal affects your interactions with other people, dogs tend to come out on top. That’s the point Stennerson makes in his article.

When you have a dog, you’re more likely to visit dog parks or training classes. With the exception of a few adventurous leash-and-backpack cats, most domestic kitties live their lives indoors or just outside their human’s home. In this way, having a dog may help you connect with other people far more easily than having a cat does.

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Impact On Activity Level

Dogs won this category as well. Cats keep us endlessly entertained with their hunting antics and daring climbs. Cats don’t, however, encourage us to take walks like dogs do. Since dogs compel us to get exercise, our moods improve as a happy consequence.

In the end, Stennerson declared dogs as the overall happiness-providing winner species. If you read through all this and are left thinking “No way, I don’t agree,” don’t worry. The author himself notes a little bit of bias, having not met many snuggly cats (and I for one have.)

“There are plenty of examples, I’m sure, of highly engaging cats who love interacting with their humans, but I, for one, have never encountered such a feline. And I’m writing this post. Dogs win.”

Still, you can’t deny these truths: dogs make us more active and offer us comfort and love when we need it most.

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H/T: Psychology Today
Featured Image: Sharon McCutcheon via Pexels

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