I’m referring to a study (yet another study it seems or is it a rehash of an existing one – I don’t know) which came to the conclusion that pet owners are more satisfied with life than non-pet owners but dog owners, “were higher in well-being, more conscientious, less neurotic, and marginally more extrovert and agreeable than cat owners”. The researchers state:
“Dog owners scored higher in well-being than cat owners on all well-being measures…Dog owners were marginally more extraverted and agreeable than cat owners. “
The first point to make is that the study was carried out by sending a questionnaire to 263 participants – equal numbers of male and females aged between 19 and 68. This is a very small sample in my opinion. As a consequence I’m not convinced that the result is reliable. Although, I have heard this sort of conclusion before on the Internet namely that cat owners are more neurotic than dog owners.
It got me thinking why this should be the case (if it is indeed true). What came to my mind quite quickly was that it is also known that cat owners are more intelligent and creative than the average in the general population. In my opinion this intelligence and expansive thinking allows the cat owner to think more and become more critical and observant about what is going around her or him.
When a decent person (and cat owners are often decent people) thinks, looks and observes and then digests what he or she sees around it is no surprise that she/he might tend to be a little more neurotic or unhappy than a dog owner because when you analyse what is happening in society at large it does not always look that good; improvements are needed.
In contrast, it could be argued that dog owners are more likely to be part of the establishment and therefore more satisfied with what is going on around them because they create what is happening in the world. They are therefore less likely to be critical of what they create namely: unfairness in society, corruption in society, damage to the environment through humankind’s activities and so on. This slight blinkering leads to a more satisfied mentality.
I would argue that, in general, the dog owner is less concerned with what is going on around him but more concerned about narrower areas of interest such as how successful he/she is in making money and in getting on in life. In contrast, a cat owner is more likely to be outward looking and less concerned with personal success. The cat owner is more concerned with altruistic issues: how other people are doing, how the world is developing, what’s wrong with various important societal issues and how they can be fixed and how to improve the welfare of animals generally.
When a person thinks like that they are more likely to be slightly more unhappy or in the words of the researcher “neurotic”. The word “neurotic” has negative connotations but in this instance I would argue that it means being concerned about the above issues with the inability to be able to do much about them causing a certain amount of unhappiness.
The above is just one theory which came to my mind but there are many others. It may simply be that more single women are likely to be cat owners and it could be argued that women in general are more emotional than men and therefore more likely to be described as neurotic.
It is certainly the case in the UK that women are more likely to have mental health problems for various reasons and I don’t think the reason is unnecessarily linked to inherited traits but to the environment in which they have to live. It is still a man’s world and in many parts of the world the woman is still a second-class citizen. That creates stress and quite naturally some unhappiness.
In short, I would simply like to try and put this sort of study in perspective and context because I don’t think it says much about the domestic cat. It says a lot more about society in general and the role of people within it.
The research was performed by Katherine Jacobs Bao at Manhattanville College in New York.
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