To cleanse the palate, I understand why a dog might make you happier than a cat. I can’t understand why not having a pet might make you happier than having a cat. As the proud owner of a very old tortie that gets five to seven different medicines a day and requires hundreds of dollars in vet care each month, I … I …
Forget what I said. This does make sense.
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) April 5, 2019
Maybe we should require every inmate in a U.S. prison to adopt a cat. Let’s get tough on crime.
Correlation isn’t causation, of course, although there may be some causation in the data too. Read Christopher Ingraham’s sharp take on the numbers at WaPo for a variety of theories of why cat-only households are a bit less happy than others. One possibility is that because cats are smaller and do better in cramped quarters than most dogs do, they’re a logical choice for urban dwellers stuck living in apartments. And there are all sorts of reasons why living in a city, with less square footage to enjoy, might produce less happiness than living in a house surrounded by green spaces.
Although that doesn’t explain why apartment-dwellers with no pets might rate themselves happier than apartment-dwellers who do have cats. Is scooping the litter box really so unpleasant? Are you people … scooping it with your hands or something? There are commercially available tools for this task, I assure you.
Ingraham flags another obvious possibility, although this one does involve some causation. Dog owners have to take their pets outside for exercise, which means exercise for the owner too and extra opportunities for social encounters. The dog’s needs will force you to do things that benefit your own physical and mental well-being. Whereas a cat’s much less demanding needs will allow you to spend 16 hours bolted to the couch on the weekend, vacantly watching “Walking Dead” reruns in the dark even though you hate the show and have hated it since roughly 2012. To take a random example.
Dogs and cats may attract different personality types as well, notes Ingraham, with those types enjoying different propensities towards being “very happy”:
A 2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners.
That seems, er, plausible. To top it all off, numbers from this same survey show that dog owners are more likely to interact with their pets than cat owners are, with greater percentages of dog owners claiming that they “seek comfort” from their animal and play with it regularly. Both types of pets provide companionship but companionship from a dog is more intense. Go figure that that might provide a bit of extra happiness.
I’ll leave you with this, another number from the same survey. Tough day for cat owners, big day for atheists. Which is confusing, because I’ve always assumed only atheists would choose to own a cat.
The 2018 GSS was just released and there's some big news. Those of "no religion" (23.1%) are statistically the same size as evangelicals (22.8%). There was also a small resurgence of mainline Protestants, while Catholics are down 3% in the last four years. pic.twitter.com/uiyDSe7M6f
— Ryan Burge 📊 (@ryanburge) March 20, 2019