Cat owners more likely to have lower wellbeing than dog owners, report finds

Chris Richards says his tortoiseshell cat Cyndi has helped with his mental health. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Chris Richards says his tortoiseshell cat Cyndi has helped with his mental health. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

At first, Cyndi the tortoiseshell cat was a stray that just happened to come by the Melbourne sharehouse Chris Richards was living in to get some food, eventually becoming a household pet.

Cut to 17 years later, and the cat is now an inseparable companion, and he can't imagine life without her.

Mr Richards said having a cat in his life had boosted his wellbeing, however, findings from the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey found cat owners were more likely to have lower wellbeing than dog owners.

"When I first moved into the sharehouse, Cyndi hadn't got that close with other tenants before, but when I moved in, she took to me for some reason," Mr Richards said.

"I started feeding her after I moved in and after a few months, she was sleeping in my bedroom next to me."

Now living in Canberra, Mr Richards said having Cyndi as a pet has done wonders for his mental health and wellbeing.

"I do take anti-anxiety medication, but it's nowhere near as effective has having a pet does," he said. "When I'm feeling stressed or anxious, I spend time with her."

The report found those who owned both a cat and a dog were more likely to report poor general health and poor mental health. The survey also found pet owners were more likely to report poor mental health than those who don't have a pet. It's the first time pet ownership had been surveyed as part of the annual HILDA reports.

However, the report's co-author Dr Ferdi Botha said the findings on pet ownership and wellbeing did not indicate causation.

"We don't think cats actually lower your wellbeing," Dr Botha said. "It seems more likely that people who have lower wellbeing to begin with are more likely to own cats, and it is quite possible their wellbeing would be even lower if they did not own a cat."

The survey found 62 per cent of Australians own at least one pet, of those 72 per cent own a dog and 37 per cent have a cat.

People who own a pet are more likely to be younger, live outside of the major cities and have a higher income.

While he has had a cat for 18 years, Mr Richards said having any pet was beneficial to wellbeing and mental health.

"Having an animal companion is invaluable for anyone," he said.

This story Cat owners have worse mental health. And it's worse if you've got a dog, too first appeared on The Canberra Times.