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Description: I am going to ask you a question but before I do I need you to put aside a bias you may have and try to be objective. Are you a cat person pr a dog person? If your answer to that question is something like, “they are both nice” or “I am indifferent to both,” then you already set. However, if you have a strong opinion then try (hard) to put it aside for a few moments and then consider what your hypotheses you might consider in order to answer the question that is the title of the article linked below; Are Dogs or Cats Better for Mental Health During a Lockdown? It IS possible to put a cat/dog bias aside as the author of the linked article, Stanley Coren, has done so. He is a significantly accomplished Psychology researcher (see a list of just his books in the References/Further Reading section at the bottom of this post) and most assuredly, a dog person and yet he gives an unbiased account and analysis of a large-scale study on the relative merits of dogs and cats as pets during the pandemic lockdown. So, with your hypotheses in mind and your bias, if any, in check, have a read through Sr. Coren’s article linked below.

Source: Are Dogs or Cats Better for Mental Health During a Lockdown? Stanley Coren, Canine Corner, Psychology Today.

Date: October 2, 2020

Photo Credit:  Gerhard G. from https://pixabay.com/users/blende12-201217/

Article Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/canine-corner/202010/are-dogs-or-cats-better-mental-health-during-lockdown

I suspect you have heard the statement, likely authored by a dog owner, that dogs have owners and cats have servants. Stanley Coren reports on research that shows that dogs are viewed more positively in terms of love and value than cats and that dogs address human loneliness more effectively. In the large study UK study Stanley discusses how there seemed to be only slight differences between how cats and dogs were viewed by their humans except in terms of whether they helped their humans get exercise (dogs, think of walks) and “keep in touch with some people and social media groups” (dogs again, perhaps also partially due to walks). Ok, put your bias back on and consider the potential value in getting, as the UK researchers said, “potential social buffers for psychological distress and loneliness, regardless of species.”

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the psychological benefits of pet ownership?
  2. Bias aside, what are some of the ways that dogs and cats differ in terms of what they do for their human companions, psychologically?
  3. The UK study discussed in the linked article was based on survey data. What sorts of study or studies would we need to do if we wanted to have more causal things to say about the relationship between pet (or dog versus cat) ownership on beneficial psychological effects?

References (Read Further):

Elena Ratschen, Emily Shoesmith, Lion Shahab, Karine Silva, Dimitra Kale,  Paul Toner, Catherine Reeve, Daniel S. Mills, (2020). Human-animal relationships and interactions during the Covid-19 lockdown phase in the UK: Investigating links with mental health and loneliness. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0239397.  Link

Coren, Stanley (2019) Do People Love Their Dogs or Cats More? Link

Coren, Stanley (2019) Are Dogs or Cats Better at Curing Loneliness? Link

Coren, S. (Ed.). (1990). Left-handedness: Behavioral implications and anomalies. Elsevier.

Coren, S. (1993). The left-hander syndrome: The causes and consequences of left-handedness. Vintage.

Coren, S. (1994). The intelligence of dogs: Canine consciousness and capabilities. New York: Free Press.

Coren, S. (1997). Sleep thieves. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S. (2001). How to speak dog: mastering the art of dog-human communication. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S. (2005). How dogs think: Understanding the canine mind. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S. (2006). The intelligence of dogs: A guide to the thoughts, emotions, and inner lives of our canine companions. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S. (2008). The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of how We Live with Dogs Today. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S. (2012). Why we love the dogs we do: How to find the dog that matches your personality. Simon and Schuster.

Coren, S., & Girgus, J. (2020). Seeing is deceiving: The psychology of visual illusions. Routledge.

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