While multiple species can be emotional support animals (ESAs) or therapy animals, dogs remain the most popular choice. That’s especially true in university-based animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs. Of these programs, aimed at reducing students’ stress, more than 85 percent involve dogs. A new study suggests many people – especially those who’re highly emotional – would like to see more cats included.
About the Study
For the study, published in Anthrozoös, researchers surveyed 1,438 respondents from 19 Flemish schools. Of the respondents, 905 were students and 533 were school faculty, staff, or employees. The researchers’ sought to gauge the level of interest in on-campus cats and determine what traits were associated with that interest. They found that highly emotional people were most interested in having more cats on campus.
Why More Cats on Campus Could Be a Good Thing
Patricia Pendry, of the study’s co-authors and a human development professor at Washington State University, told Medical News Today that the term ‘emotionality’ indicates the strength of a person’s emotional response to certain feelings or experiences and how they react in turn.
“While our study didn’t examine underlying mechanisms, we hypothesize that the trait of emotionality may reflect a state of mind that allows people to respond strongly — even passionately — to fairly subtle cues, which cats are known to display,” Pendry told the outlet.
A previous study evaluating cats and dogs as emotional support animals (ESAs) supports Pendry’s findings. In that study, researchers found both animals significantly reduced depression in participants. However, the participants with cats improved much more than those with dogs.
Pendry and her co-author hope their findings might encourage schools to consider incorporating cats in their stress-relief programs.
“Our study shows that we may be able to reach a larger audience by offering interventions that include dogs and cats. People on the higher end of the emotionality trait may be more likely to participate and benefit from these interactions,” Pendry told Science Daily. “We’re looking for ways to help more people reduce their stress levels. Adding cats may be another way to reach a broader audience.”