While it’s a long-known fact that our adorable cats and dogs provide us love and companionship, new research shows that they can also help us get to know people, foster friendships and strengthen our support network.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia and Harvard University, surveyed 2,700 participants in four cities — Portland, Perth, San Diego and Nashville. Of the 59% of those surveyed who had a pet, nearly half said they became acquainted with someone through their pet.
Dog and cat people were significantly more likely to get to know their neighbors than non-pet owners. And over 40% of pet parents reported receiving one or more types of social support — such as offering advice, pet sitting or emotional support — through people they met through their pet.
While dog parents were five times more than likely than other pet parents to have met someone through their pet (by taking them out for walks) indoor pets such as cats can also to help make new friends. Participants of the survey mentioned getting to know their neighbors through their cats in unexpected ways such as waving to a cat perched on a neighbor’s windowsill.
One cat parent who participated in the survey shared an interesting scenario: “The cat steals people’s socks from their houses, and then I return them. It’s a good way to get to know people. They all think it’s hilarious.”
While loneliness and lack of social support in our modern day lives can be detrimental to our wellbeing and health, companion animals can break the ice between strangers. The study found that pets help foster bonds between people, facilitates help from others, and creates a commonality between people from different backgrounds. The study also suggests that urban planners and community groups should take into account the role of pets when building communities.
Have your cats helped you make friends?