Dog parents: If the sound of a whimpering pup makes your heart melt like a wet Wicked Witch, you’re not alone.
A new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science found that dog parents find the sound of a crying dog equally as sad as the cries of a human baby.
For the study, 500 young adults listened to the sounds of dogs whining, cats meowing, and human babies crying. What researchers found overall was that people who lived with a cat or dog were more sensitive to the sounds of dog crying than those who didn’t, and that both dog and cat parents rated the sound of whimpering dogs more negatively than the sound of meowing cats.
In fact, all participants regardless of whether they were pet parents or not rated dog cries as more negative than cat meows.
In other words, dogs more effectively communicate distress to humans than cats do, and people who are pet parents are more likely to have a high emotional sensitivity to those sounds.
According to researchers, a lot of this has to do with the different in the way dogs and cats were domesticated. Dogs are more dependent on humans, whereas cats who domesticated themselves are more self-reliant. Not all meows indicate distress. That makes the sad-sounding cries of human-dependent dogs more emotionally effective.
“For sounds that we need to respond to, like a dog that is utterly dependent on its human host for food and care, it makes sense that we find these sounds emotionally compelling,” says Christine Parsons, Associate Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark and co-author of the study.
“This difference in animal dependence may explain why dog whines are rated as more negative than cat meows by all adults, including cat owners. Dogs may simply have more effective distress signals than cats,” noted Katherine Young, a lecturer at King’s College London and senior author of the study.
“It might also explain why we find interacting with pets so rewarding, and are emotionally impacted by both positive communication signals, like purring and negative, like meows or whines,” Parsons added.
No wonder we call them our fur babies. We’re basically hard-wired to want to care for them, and what’s better is that it makes us feel great!
The study also noted little difference between dog and cat parents and anyone else in terms of psychological health, but I’m not sure about that. Being around my dog always makes me feel better!