Can pets help cure loneliness? This is a commonly asked question, and many pet lovers agree that they feel less lonely around their furry friends. However, whether or not this is true is something that not everyone can confirm. Recent studies have shown how pets can help with loneliness as well as whether cats or dogs are the better companion in this situation.
About the Study
The main age group that this study is centered around is seniors. There are currently a large number of individuals in the world that are ages 65 and above, and many of which are living alone because they are either widowed, divorced, or single, all of which could create loneliness for these individuals. This isn’t to say that young people aren’t also affected by loneliness, but 65 and older is just the main age group to focus on.
Many psychologists believe that humans need to be attached to someone or else it could lead to extreme loneliness. But who said that it had to be another person?
It is suggested that if someone lives alone, a great way to help their loneliness is to get a pet for a companion. It is no secret that having a pet by your side is better than being alone all the time, but how much do our pets really help with our social support? Also, how do dogs and cats differ in terms of companionship?
A group of 1,160 individuals ages 65 and older were included in this study. Some of them had dogs, some had cats, and some had no pets at all. Each individual in this study was asked different questions in order to rate their sense of social isolation, and then the results were used to compare the lifestyles of those with either dogs, cats, or no pets.
Can Cats Cure Loneliness?
Cats are much easier to care for than dogs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will help with loneliness. Some seniors might prefer this type of low-maintenance pet, but less work also means less interactions with your cat. Cats generally prefer to keep to themselves and don’t need much attention, so for someone looking for a loving companion that will always be there for them, a cat may not be the best option.
The results of this study showed that people with cats felt about the same social isolation as those with no pets at all. Therefore, there appeared to be very little psychological benefits to owning a cat while feeling lonely.
Can Dogs Cure Loneliness?
A dog is a much different pet than a cat. Dogs are very loving creatures that enjoy greeting their family members at the door, cuddling with them, and playing with them as much as possible. Despite being more needy and high-matinence than cats, dogs are ultimately loyal companions that many seniors enjoy having by their side.
This study showed that having a dog as a companion actually did lower the social isolation of individuals. Not only will a dog pay plenty of attention to you, but you have to take them outside often, including walks, the dog park, and wherever else you think they would enjoy.
When you’re outside with your dog, you’re more likely to meet other people and end up talking about dogs with them. Therefore, even if you just live alone with your dog, your dog can actually lead you to make new friends in the long run.
With a cat, there is no reason to leave the house often or constantly give them attention. They are more of a pet that enjoys being with you only for limited amounts of time. However, a dog is a loving companion that can lead you to meet new people and enjoy new experiences.
Of course, having a pet will always make you less lonely that if you didn’t have one at all. But if you want to help your loneliness as much as possible, then this study suggests that a dog is certainly the way to go. Even though dogs need us to care for them, they actually care for us in return more than we even know.
H/T: Psychology Today