Petplan in the UK tell us about the amazing research they conducted using Artificial Intelligence, or AI. They’ve scoured the web and social for pictures of owners and their pets. Then used AI to rate the happiness levels of different pet owners.

What did they find? They found that New Zealand pet owners are the happiest in the world!

But before we get into the data, let’s take a look at just how many pets New Zealanders own, and what’s the most commonly owned pet in New Zealand?

What’s the most common pet in New Zealand?

New Zealand pet owners-percentage of pets

  • Cats are the most common pets – 44% of New Zealand homes have one, and there’s more than 1 million pet cats in New Zealand!
  • Dogs are the next most common pet in New Zealand – 28% of Kiwis own a dog, over 700,000 dogs all up.
  • And fish are the next most common pet found in New Zealand – 10% of homes own a pet fish, with more than 1.5 million fish owned all up!

Now read on to find out how Petplan know that Kiwi pet owners are the happiest in the world!

Where in the World are the Happiest Pet Owners?

New Zealand pet owners-rabbit

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.

happiest pet owners in the world

Infographic courtesy: Petplan UK

Which Pet has the Happiest Owners?

New Zealand pet owners-dog

While everyone might have a personal preference for either dogs or cats; we’ve discovered that one pet, in particular, takes the crown for making theirs appear the happiest online.

To find out which pet owner is the happiest, we analysed the caption of Instagram posts using the Al SentiStrength caption, which tool pieces of text and assesses the level of positivity present. Sentistrength gives a score between 1 and 5 on the positivity scale, with the caption that scores 2 or above suggesting a high level of positivity.

Our analysis found that 67.9% of the time, Insta posts made by dog ​​owners were registered as positive – higher than the percentage of positive cat owners (64.7%) – suggesting dogs make you happier than cats.

I’m sure we’ll hear from cat owners on that point!

The Benefits of Having a Pet

New Zealand pet owners-cat

Petplan has put together a list of the top physical and psychological benefits of 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. Here’s the top 6 benefits of having a pet:

Top Wellbeing Benefits of Having a Pet

  1. You’ll get fitter and healthier
  2. You’ll meet new people
  3. Companionship
  4. Your mental health may improve
  5. It builds a routine
  6. You can find a new hobby

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. Socializing with other dogs and humans increases your dog’s happiness and confidence too and is key for a puppy’s healthy development.

3. Companionship
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 who 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. Lapdogs, 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 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.

For more great advice on owning a pet, check out 8 Common Family Pets – Pros and cons or Dog Safety Around Children.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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