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July 20, 2011

Dogs and cats may really be our best friends

Rob Stein's article in yesterday's Washington Post Health section examined the results of a series of recent studies aimed at trying to define the benefits of pet ownership.

In a paper published online this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the team of psychologists who performed the experiments wrote, "One's pet is every bit as effective as one's best friend in staving off social needs deficits in the wake of rejection."

I'll vouch for that.

Wrote Stein in his story, "It's been unclear whether there really is a cause-and-effect relationship between pet ownership and better physical and mental health. Now, new research indicates that the benefits of having a canine or feline companion are real and broad."

You've heard of the men who stare at goats?

They've got nothing on Gray Cat, who demonstrates above her fantastic ability to focus as she stares down polar bears on TV.

Here is the abstract of the scientific paper.

Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership

Social support is critical for psychological and physical well-being, reflecting the centrality of belong- ingness in our lives. Human interactions often provide people with considerable social support, but can pets also fulfill one’s social needs? Although there is correlational evidence that pets may help individuals facing significant life stressors, little is known about the well-being benefits of pets for everyday people. Study 1 found in a community sample that pet owners fared better on several well-being (e.g., greater self-esteem, more exercise) and individual-difference (e.g., greater conscientiousness, less fearful attachment) measures. Study 2 assessed a different community sample and found that owners enjoyed better well-being when their pets fulfilled social needs better, and the support that pets provided complemented rather than competed with human sources. Finally, Study 3 brought pet owners into the laboratory and experimentally demonstrated the ability of pets to stave off negativity caused by social rejection. In summary, pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.

You say you can't get enough of this work and want to read the original paper in its entirety?

And you want to do that for free?

No problema: here's a link to a PDF that you can read and/or download to your heart's content.


July 20, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Is Debby kidding? Is that her "15 Minutes of Fame?" She has nearly 13 million hits thus far. Hmmm. Am I in the wrong business?

Posted by: Kay | Jul 20, 2011 4:20:39 PM

It is interesting how humans domesticated dogs, but cats pretty much domesticated us.

We took dogs and molded them to our way of thinking over a few thousand years, where as cats followed after us, and slowly took on our mannerisms and even learned a distinctive speech pattern that is reserved solely for communicating with humans (apparently they have 3 'languages'...one for cats, another for humans, and one for beasts they are about to eat...of which if house cats could only get big enough I believe would be reserved for us as well).

I could give or take a dog...but cats...I need to hug them all...and put them in baskets...with rainbows...


Posted by: clifyt | Jul 20, 2011 11:33:45 AM

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