The Roles of Pet Dogs and Cats in Human Courtship and Dating

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What role do companion animals play in the dating lives of single adults? As dogs and cats are increasingly viewed as family members, a person's pets may wield significant influence in partner choice. Here, we provide descriptive quantitative data on the role pets play in mate appraisal and mate selection; we also test two hypotheses regarding the role of pets in single Americans’ dating lives. We hypothesized that single women will place more value on a how a potential mate interacts with their pet, than will single men. We also hypothesized that dogs will serve more prominent roles as “social tools” in the dating arena than cats, given that dogs are more social and dogs require more constant care. Thus, dogs may be a better measure of a potential mate's caregiving capacity. Data were obtained from a 2014 survey sent to a random selection of people in the US registered on the online dating site Match.com who had indicated pet information in their dating profiles. A sample of 1,210 individuals responded, 61% of whom were women. Dogs and cats were the most common pets for both sexes. In support of our first hypothesis, on eight of 11 dependent variables (such as whether one has ever been attracted to someone because of a pet), women were more discriminating of a potential partner's associations with pets than were men. Consistent with our second hypothesis, dogs served more commonly as social barometers in the dating arena than cats did, with respect to nine of 11 dependent variables (such as whether one would date someone because of a pet). We discuss the findings with respect to changing family profiles, including lower fertility and expanded roles of companion animals as extended kin. We conclude with the limitations of this study and suggestions for future research.


cats; companion animals; dating; dogs; pets; singles



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