Do Dogs Actually Deliver More Joy Than Cats?


Want to be happy – get a pet. According to a UK study people with pets are happier than those who have no pets. Respondents went online and took a survey which came up with the results, which had some surprises.

There are proven benefits of sharing your life with at least one animal, and many of those relate to psychological health. So, the fact that people with pets are happier than those without pets makes sense.

People with pets had an average happiness rating of 7.01; those without had a significantly lower average of 6.26. And people, according to the survey, who happened to adopt or purchase a pet during the pandemic made it through with less depression as a result.

Despite the expense, the pet which sparked the most happiness, horses. It’s only conjecture but having a trusting relationship with an animal that weighs about a thousand pounds or more might be part of it. Many of these individuals may also ride, and there are a myriad of mental health and physical benefits to riding horses.

This means man’s best friend was relegated to second place. Humans co-evolved with dogs. We intuitively understand one another, and have a relationship that no other two species on the planet share. Dogs are often more unconditionally loyal to their people than people may be to people. While occasionally other species put their lives on the line for their humans, dogs are always prepared to do so.

That’s not to mention the many ways we can interact with dogs, from playing to fetch to simply taking a walk which activates endorphins to support us feeling good.

The biggest surprise from this survey is that third on the happiness list are pet birds, followed by ferrets, fish, hamsters, reptiles and finally then cats before rabbits and at the bottom of the list Guinea pigs.

So, what’s the deal? Perhaps, because this survey is from the UK and cats are often indoors and outdoors. However, we also know from a building of foundation of research that purring cats in our laps are likely (in some ways) as beneficial as an anti-anxiety drug. Like dogs cats are typically happy to see us, and being human then in turn we’re happy to see them. I’m unconvinced that fish or most pet reptiles express joy when we walk in the door. And certainly it’s bewildering how fish, pet reptiles, ferrets and hamsters can score higher than cats.

In part because they are so smart, pet birds do bring joy. Still, cats are the most popular pet. People choose the species they want to share their home with for several reasons, but clearly toward the top of the list is that the pet delivers joy.

In fact, overall Guinea pigs (which are lower on the list) are more interactive with their human family than hamsters (oddly, higher on the list).

The survey also found that people with three or more pets had the highest scores, near 7.5. You’d think, perhaps, having to pay expenses for three pets and dealing with three pets may be a difficult proposition, but according to the survey these are the happiest people of all.