Around 95% of Americans consider pets part of the family, treating them with as much love and care as their furry BFFs deserve. Americans live, enjoy outdoorsy adventures, and often travel with their pets — and many even bring them to work. Because pets are so closely connected to human beings, it is important for humans to choose their ‘soulmate’ carefully. Funnily enough, a new study undertaken at Indiana University has found that choosing the perfect pet can pose similar challenges to finding one’s perfect romantic match.
What You Think You Want vs What You Choose
In their study, published in the Behavior Research Methods journal, scientists found that people often think they want one type of pet (the study focused on dogs in particular) when in fact, they end up choosing something completely different. The study, carried out in an effort to match dogs up with owners in an animal shelter, showed that researchers often ended up suggesting dogs that were not ultimately chosen by adopters. The reasons are that although most people list various traits they prefer (e.g. ‘friendliness’), they ultimately select dogs based on a small list of preferences – including age and personality. Researchers said the results were similar to those conducted on speed dating couples – people stated romantic preferences that did not match up to the partners they actually chose.
Looks Do Matter to People
The researchers also found that the physical attractiveness of dogs was important when making a choice. Most people chose dogs they deemed cute or attractive. The researchers stated that sometimes, focusing too much on specific physical or personality traits, however, can mean that families don’t take home a dog that would actually be beautifully suited to them. For instance, some adopters may become obsessed with adopting a specific breed, failing to consider a non-breed dog that has similar qualities to their chosen breed (for instance, they might be after a small dog, or one that does not shed excessively).
A Pet That is Off the Beaten Path
The study indicates that when it comes to pets, having an open mind and thinking out of the box can often result in a good choice. This is a vital lesson in more ways than the obvious. For instance, you may have been wanting to adopt a dog, yet because of your busy lifestyle or other circumstance, this pet may not be ideal. You might decide to opt for fish instead – which require much less maintenance.
Fish are also good pets for those on a budget and for those who prioritize sustainability – particularly if you buy a small fish tank that consumes just a small amount of energy. Some fishtanks are actually self-cleaning, working off the principles of physics. Other pets that do not need quite as much human contact are small rodents, rabbits, and cats. At the very lowest end of the scale in terms of the need for human contact, are sea monkeys!
Performance Anxiety at Shelters
Researchers additionally stated the importance of knowing that shelters are high-stress environments for dogs. This means that dogs may be more agitated or nervous than they would actually be in the safety of a home. Choosing a dog based on behavior on a given day during a visit is similar to choosing a date based on how well they perform in a high-stress situation (e.g. speaking before a crowd). It may take many visits and a bit of time together outside the shelter (take a few dogs on volunteer walks if you can, to learn a bit more about them) to make a reasoned decision.
The above-mentioned research shows that when it comes to selecting a pet, keeping your list small is key. Being realistic – knowing how much time, money, and energy you have for a pet – is also important. If you have any health needs (e.g. allergies), these should be at the top of your list. Other ‘wants’ for features such as a specific breed, specific age,.. etc. can be adopted if you visit a shelter and fall in love with a dog, cat, bunny, or even fish that seems to see right through to your heart and soul.