Summary: In the US, many universities have introduced a program called “pet your stress away.” In the program, students can interact with pets for stress reduction. It has been observed that pets help with pain. However, most of these pets are dogs. In the new study, researchers found that some people would benefit more from cats. These are generally people high on an emotional scale. Similarly, females are more likely to prefer cats. Therefore, it appears that the choice of animals depends on personality traits.
Many people wrongly assume they can have a furry pet, which will help in post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. However, that is an oversimplification of the condition. Though having a pet helps lower stress and anxiety, keeps a person active, and prevents loneliness, not everyone would experience these benefits. Lots depend on the personality of a person, emotional type, and more. For some, having a pet may rather cause stress. Therefore, it is not surprising that a new study by Washington State University found that highly emotional and reactive people are more likely to benefit from feline interactions.
Many universities and other professional associations have implemented the program “Pet Your Stress Away” in the US. In this program, universities or other professional bodies keep pet animals that students or other stakeholders can interact with to reduce stress. Studies show that though most students, about 85% prefer dogs, interest in cats is also rising. In addition, though many seem to believe that petting a dog reduces stress, some personality types prefer cats, showing the need for adding cats to the mix.
In the new study published in the journal Anthrozoös, researchers found that people with specific personality types prefer cats. For example, the study found that highly emotional people who are highly reactive seem to benefit more from cats. These findings are relevant, considering that people’s emotional responses are very stable, and they are less likely to change over time. How people respond emotionally to various stresses is an important part of personality traits.
Early studies show that people on the higher end of the emotional scale are more likely to form a strong bond with animals. Now the new study shows that these are also people who prefer cats over other pets, and thus cats must also be included in “pet your stress away” programs.
Researchers say that they have been told that people are divided into dog people and cat people. Furthermore, many also said that there is not much interest in cats at the university level. However, their research shows that many are, in fact, interested in cats, and it all depends on their personality traits. For the study, researchers surveyed more than 20 papers with participants of more than 1400 university students and staff.
Moreover, such an interest is even found in people who might be dog owners. Further, it appears that interest in cats is higher in females. Of course, there are specific issues, too. Not everyone likes cats. Some people might be living with different phobias, and they cannot interact with cats. Additionally, some individuals are known to be allergic to cats.
Nonetheless, the study demonstrated that cats are also good during the post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. Though dogs are more commonly used in the US for such a treatment, adding cats to the mix would benefit more people. One of the reasons why dogs are preferred is that many people think dogs are better at pleasing people, while cats are unpredictable and do not always like interacting with people.
Nonetheless, their study also showed that when given a choice, some would immediately choose dogs, while others would choose cats. Some people prefer cats over dogs, and it is interesting to notice how personality traits influence the choice of pets.
Since the choice of pets depends more on a personality trait, the study also found that the pattern of choice of pet animals was similar among students and university staff, though they are very different population groups. Choosing a service dog for migraines is one such example.
Hence, this study also shows that what animal people choose has not only to do with the nature of different species and it significantly depends on the personality traits of humans. Consequently, some people find cats a better option and are more likely to experience benefits from interacting with them.
Overall, studies have found out that pets help with pain and illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP