Does having an animal lead to a different relationship with the world?

Are pet owners a little different when it comes to their social relationships or the environment? A research team from UQAM, led by psychology professor Catherine Amiot, was interested in the question.

A previous study has demonstrated: yes, we have a more positive attitude towards other animals when bonds have been established with a faithful furry or feathered companion. But is the relationship between pet owners and other groups, causes or fields also special?

By extracting the marrow from a national survey conducted in 2022, researcher Catherine Amiot and her team were able to draw some lines in this direction, in particular by analyzing their attitude towards social spheres to which they do not belong ( for example, in relation to people from different cultures, religions or socio-professional categories), their perspective on the environment or even their meat consumption.

Using an “affective thermometer”, a data collection tool making it possible to assess the degree of “coldness” or “warmth” felt when faced with groups to which one does not belong, the researchers were able to notice differences in the results obtained from pet owners and people without pets. “What we were able to see in the research was that pet owners showed slightly more positive attitudes towards these outgroups compared to non-pet owners,” says Amiot, herself the owner of Enzo, a German shorthaired pointer.

Based on this observation, can we know if this tendency towards openness is developed by the very fact of owning an animal at home, or if it was already in the making among adopters? Well, this is still a field to be cleared, since the methodology of this “quasi-experimental” study, in the words of the researcher, does not allow it to be verified.

It would be interesting to push to see where these differences come from, for example by observing the evolution over time of someone who adopts an animal.

Catherine Amiot, professor of psychology at UQAM

Dog meat!

And the plate? Is the diet of a pet owner different from that of a non-owner? If we look at the diet categories with which the survey respondents identified (omnivorous, restrictive, vegetarian, etc.), we do not really notice a difference between the two groups, distributed generally in the same way among these various diets. .

“In fact, the difference is observed on another variable, namely the average number of portions of meat consumed per week, which stands at 5.4 for pet owners, compared to 6.15 for non-pet owners. -owners,” notes the psychology professor.

Another aspect studied: environmental considerations with regard to various issues in this area, such as impacts on the biosphere, the world population, future generations, etc. Here, animal owners are more or less on an equal footing with non-owners, but have shown themselves to be more sensitive to the specific issue of fauna and flora.

Animal lovers also concerned

The study looked not only at pet owners, but also at people who have relationships with cats, dogs, rabbits and others; for example, by acting as a temporary guardian. And it appears that the latter show the same social inclinations, even if they do not watch over an animal on a daily basis: more positive attitude towards their own social group and others, marked concern for the biosphere, etc.

“These findings are interesting given that they suggest that it is not absolutely necessary to have a pet to show differences at these levels,” says Amiot.

Other research teams could take over and continue to dig into the survey data, since a categorization by type of animal owned has been drawn and could be exploited; to check, for example, if the profile of a dog owner would be the same as that of a cat owner.

“It becomes complex,” warns the researcher, “because there are different configurations, like people who can have dogs and cats, rodents and birds, etc. But, clearly, this data can be explored further to study the effect of different species of domestic animals in a little more detail. »


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