Whether it’s a dog, a cat, or a bouncy rabbit, anyone with a pet will know the joy they can bring into our lives. The benefits of having a pet are backed by academia, with a myriad of studies proving how having a furry friend can make us not only happier but fitter and healthier too. But does where you live in the world and the type of pet you own have any bearing on just how happy you appear?
Using AI tools, we analysed more than 250k images of pets and their owners on Instagram and Google Images to find out where in the world the happiest dog, cat, and rabbit owners can be found online, and where owning a pet makes you happier than the average person.
Where are the happiest pet owners located around the world?
We began our research by searching for photos of dog, cat, and rabbit owners online in order to find out where the happiest pet owners live in the world.
Using the relevant Instagram hashtags (e.g. #dogowner) and Google Images search queries (e.g. ‘dog owner’) in each OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country, we found a sample of 9,000 images that we could then analyse with an AI facial emotion recognition tool.
The AI tool works by scanning clear photos of faces and detecting levels of emotion present in each one, generating a score out of 100 for each detectable emotion ranging from happiness to fear and disgust.
We discovered that the happiest pet owners overall live in New Zealand, where our sample of pet owner photos scored an average happiness score of 88.4 out of 100. Pet owners in Brazil come in second place, with an average happiness score of 83.8 out of 100.
The countries with the happiest dog owners
Our analysis reveals that, on average, dog owners in Brazil are happier than dog owners in any other OECD country, registering an average happiness score of 94.2 out of 100. Dog owners in the Netherlands are the next happiest, with an average happiness score of 91.4 out of 100.
The countries with the happiest cat owners
Our search for cat owner photos found that cat owners in New Zealand generate an average happiness score of 89.4 out of 100 – higher than any other country in our analysis. Sweden’s cat owners are the second happiest, with an average happiness score of 88.1 out of 100.
The countries with the happiest rabbit owners
The happiest rabbit owners in the world can be found in the Netherlands: the rabbit owner images we found there generated an average happiness score of 78.7 out of 100, based on AI emotional analysis of the faces featured. Sweden takes the second spot, with an average happiness score of 72.3, followed by the Czech Republic (65).
Which pet has the happiest owners?
Next, we wanted to know: which types of pet owners talk about their furry friends the most positively online? To find out, we again searched for posts with pet owner-related hashtags on Instagram (e.g. #dogowner) and scanned the accompanying captions with another AI tool called SentiStrength. SentiStrength is able to analyse a short piece of text and assess how negative or positive it is in sentiment.
We discovered that 71.4% of #rabbitowner Instagram captions were positive in sentiment. That’s higher than the percentage of positive dog owners (67.9%) and cat owners (64.7%).
Are pet owners happier than the average person?
We know that having a pet can bring a lot of happiness to their owner’s life – but can it be said that pet owners are happier than the average person?
To discover how happy the average person is in each OECD country, we found a combination of selfies on each country’s Google Images results and geotagged photos tagged with the #selfie hashtag on Instagram.
Running these through the AI facial recognition tool generated an average happiness score for each country. We could then compare this score with the score generated by searching for photos of dog, cat, and rabbit owners.
Our analysis reveals that in Belgium, pet owners are 172.8% happier than the average person. That’s more than any other country in our analysis. Canada comes in second place, where pet owners are 158% happier than the average Canadian.
The benefits of having a pet
We’ve put together a list of some of the benefits you may reap by having a pet. Of course, you shouldn’t rush into getting a pet if it won’t suit your lifestyle. You should always seriously consider the time, money, and commitment involved in getting a pet before you begin your search for a furry friend.
1. You’ll 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, with exercise requirements varying depending on the breed of the dog, its age, and its health.
Walking is not only necessary to keep your dog physically healthy and mentally stimulated, but it will help you to meet your daily exercise requirements, too. Dog owners are also more likely to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels than non-dog owners, and there’s research to suggest that being around animals can help build a stronger immune system too.
2. You’ll meet new people
If you’re someone who finds it hard to meet new people, getting a pet can widen your friendship circle. 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. Socialising with other dogs and humans increases your dog’s happiness and confidence too, and is key for a puppy’s healthy development.
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 pets is for their company, and that 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 wellbeing.
Having evolved for millennia alongside us, dogs in particular thrive on human companionship, with the dog-human bond proving similar to how human children bond with their parents.
4. Your mental health may improve
You don’t even need to take your pet for a walk to feel the physical and mental health benefits of having a pet. 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 the stress hormone cortisol and release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that helps you bond with your pet.
Cuddling with your pet is comforting for them, as well. Lap dogs, for example, are so-named because of their love of cuddling up on a nice, warm lap. Do keep in mind your pet’s personality, though – some animals aren’t comfortable with being cuddled and stroked too much or at all. If you’re a cuddler and in the market for a new furry friend, make sure you consider an animal’s temperament before making a commitment.
5. It builds a routine
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.
6. You can find a new hobby
Getting a pet can open up a new world of hobbies that will make the both of you feel accomplished, bonded, and more confident. If you have a dog (or even rats), you can teach them new tricks and show them off to your friends and family. Tricks help to instil confidence and obedience in your pet while also improving their cognitive skills and memory.
Notes on methodology
- Our analysis considers a total of 250k images depicting pet owners and their pets taken from Instagram and Google Images in every OECD country.
- To find out where the happiest dog, cat, and rabbit owners live, we first found geotagged Instagram and Google Image posts with the relevant hashtag (e.g. #catowner).
- Each photo was then analysed with Microsoft Azure’s Face API tool that detects the levels of emotion present in clear photos of faces and provides a score out of 100 for each.
- The happiness score of the average person in each country was found by running locally posted pet selfies through the same facial recognition tool. Selfies were found using the #selfie hashtag on Instagram and by searching for selfies on local Google Images.
- SentiStrength is an AI tool that analyses short pieces of text and detects levels of sentiment present. For the purposes of our analysis, any caption that received a score of 2 (positive) to 5 (extremely positive) was categorised as positive.
- SentiStrength was also used to find out which type of pet owner talks about their pet the most positively online. Instagram captions found through the relevant pet hashtag (e.g. #rabbitowner) were scanned with SentiStrength.
- The images and Instagram captions in our analysis were found and analysed with the relevant tools on 20th May 2022.