Why pet owners in Belgium are happier than other people

Why pet owners in Belgium are happier than other people
Credit: Bia Mori

Pet owners are happier than average persons without pets according to a recent survey of OECD countries using sophisticated facial recognition tools.

The conclusion may state the obvious and does not come as a surprise for pet owners but now there are figures to show how much happier they are and how the happiness score differs by country. The study was carried out by Petplan, a British pet insurer company, and included the most common pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits.

Petplan analyzed more than 250,000 pet owner selfies on Instagram and Google Images.  Running these through the AI facial recognition tool generated an average happiness score for each country. The score was then compared with the score generated by searching for photos of dog, cat, and rabbit owners.

The happiness score of pet owners varied to some extent by pet and country but basically pet owners are happier than those without a pet in all countries in the survey. In Belgium, pet owners were found to be happier than average persons without pets compared to other countries.

Overall, Belgium ranks relatively high in international happiness reports. The fact that the country is considered friendly to pets only adds to the high happiness scores of its pet owners, experts at Petplan told The Brussels Times.

The physical and psychological benefits of having a pet – not the least during a personal crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic – are already well known and are summarized by Petplan.

But you shouldn’t rush into getting a pet if it won’t suit your lifestyle. Petplan warns. “You should always seriously consider the time, money, and commitment involved in getting a pet before you begin your search for a furry friend.”

The benefits of having a pet

In Petplan’s summary of benefits, pet owners first of all get fitter and healthier. Whether it’s taking your dog for a daily walk, playing with your cat, or running after a rabbit, having a pet naturally requires you to become more active. Most dogs, for example, will require one or two moderate walks a day.

Another benefit is that pet owners meet new people. Owning a dog, for example, offers lots of opportunities to connect with other people, from meeting other dog owners on walks, mingling at puppy training classes, or simply stopping to chat with friendly admirers of your pooch. This in turn also increases the dog’s happiness.

One of the most obvious benefits of having a pet is the companionship they offer. A 2019 study found that the top reason that people get pats is for their company. Nearly 9 in 10 people see their pets as part of the family. Particularly for people that live alone and the elderly, it’s the companionship of a pet that can make all the difference to mental and physical well-being.

Mental health may also improve. We’ve all felt the urge to cuddle a particularly fluffy dog – and it turns out that just stroking your pet is enough to lower levels of stress hormones and release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that helps you bond with your pet. Cuddling with your pet is comforting for them as well.

Finally, part of having a pet is having a solid routine built around tasks like feeding, trips to the toilet, walking, or cleaning out cages, hutches, and litter boxes. Not only are routines particularly helpful for people with autism, stress, or anxiety, but pets thrive on routine and will feel more relaxed knowing when to expect food, walks, and toilet breaks.

The Brussels Times

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