Rightpet

RightPet 2010 – 2018 Pet Ownership Study

Participants

The RightPet pet ownership survey was begun in 2010, and includes 64,284 animal breed / species reviews from 16,792 unique individuals from 113 nations. Reviews have been collected for 32 types of pet and livestock animals.

Participants in the survey were recruited in two ways. Approximately 20% of the participants submitted reviews after visiting RightPet through organic search. Around 80% of participants submitted reviews after being contacted on freelance work sites such as Upwork, fiverr etc.. These individuals were selected because they identified themselves as pet owners or pet professionals. Participants recruited from freelance work sites were paid approximately US $3 per review.

Measures

Animal demographics

For each review, participants identified the breed(s) and/or species of an animal they currently, or previously, have owned or cared for. Additionally, we collected data on: the animal’s gender; the animal’s name (optional); and where the animal came from (breeder, rescue/shelter organization, pet store etc.).

In the review form, participants were asked to rate animal-specific traits. For example, for dogs, participants were asked to rate (using a slider bar to select a 0 – 5 score): Quick to learn and train; Emotionally stable; Family oriented; Child safety; Safe with small pets; Doesn’t bark a lot; Health; Easy to groom; Great watch dog; Great guard dog.

Overall satisfaction with animal

Participants were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with their animal by responding to the question, “How satisfied are you with this ----[animal]---?”

The member used a slider bar to select a 0 - 5 score (with half-points being selectable).

  • 0 = Extremely dissatisfied
  • 0.5 = Very dissatisfied
  • 1 = Dissatisfied
  • 1.5 = Somewhat dissatisfied
  • 2 = Neutral
  • 2.5 = Somewhat satisfied
  • 3/5 = Satisfied
  • 3.5/5 = Very satisfied
  • 4/5 = Extremely satisfied
  • 4.5/5 = Fully satisfied
  • 5/5 = 100% Perfect

Owner demographics

We measured participants’: gender; nationality; zip/postal code; age when submitting the review; age when they first owned the reviewed animal; age when they stopped owning the reviewed animal; education level; whether they’ve owned the type of animal before; the total duration they have owned the type of animal.

Owner personality

Participants’ big five personality traits were measured using the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI; Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003). Participants were asked to rate their agreement with statements similar to, “I see myself as extraverted, enthusiastic”) on a scale from Strongly Disagree (0) to Strongly Agree (5).

The TIPI contains separate two-item subscales to measure extraversion, agreeableness (e.g., “sympathetic, warm”), conscientiousness (e.g., “dependable, self-disciplined”), emotional stability (the opposite of neuroticism; e.g., “calm, emotionally stable”), and openness to experience (e.g., “open to new experiences, complex”). Items were averaged together to form composites for each big five personality trait.

Owner attachment

Participants’ attachment styles were measured using a 4-item, shortened version of the Experiences in Close Relationships – Relationship Structures scale (ECR-RS; Fraley, Heffernan, Vicary, & Brumbaugh, 2011). Namely, based on factor analyses of existing data, we picked the two items with the greater factor loadings to measure each of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance.

Attachment anxiety was measured by rating the statements, “I often worry that my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends don't really care for me” and “I'm often afraid that my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends may abandon me” on a scale from Strongly Disagree (0) to Strongly Agree (6). These two items were then averaged together.

Attachment avoidance was measured using the items, “I usually discuss my problems and concerns with my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends” (reverse coded) and “I don't feel comfortable opening up to my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends.” These two items were averaged together.

KEY FINDINGS

1. Kids ages 10 - 17 enjoy owning pet rats more than cats or dogs.

This finding is based on 5,150 reviews from 2,867 members from 74 countries, who currently own, or have owned, pets when they were 17 years old or younger. Included in the analysis were reviews from 222 rat owners, 273 cat owners, and 1,924 dog owners, as well as reviews of 29 other animal types by 2,444 individuals.

Adults and kids who owned animals between the ages of 10 - 17 reported that pet rats gave them more satisfaction than any other types of pets, including cats and dogs.

Specifically, we used linear regression to test the interaction between age and pet type (e.g., cat, dog, rat) in predicting satisfaction. Age was negatively related to satisfaction with rats and positively related to satisfaction with most other animals. In other words, young people tended to enjoy rats more than do older people—whereas the reverse was true for most other common pets. As a consequence, from a purely descriptive standpoint, people 17 years of age and younger rated satisfaction with rats higher than satisfaction with any other animal. Satisfaction with rats was statistically significantly higher than satisfaction with any other animals for persons 10 years of age or younger.

2. Women like cats more than dogs. In contrast, men like cats and dogs approximately equally

This finding is based on 30,535 dog and cat breed reviews from 13,562 individuals from 110 countries.

Graph Depicting Owner Satisfaction by Gender

Owner Satisfaction with Specific Animals by Gender, in Descending Order by Men’s Satisfaction

Animal Men Women
Mean Satisfaction 95% Confidence Interval Mean Satisfaction 95% Confidence Interval
Lower Bound Upper Bound Lower Bound Upper Bound
Dogs 4.32 4.30 4.34 4.38 4.36 4.39
Cats 4.29 4.25 4.34 4.49 4.47 4.51
Spiders 4.14 4.03 4.26 4.00 3.85 4.14
Cattle 4.14 4.02 4.25 4.12 4.03 4.21
Snakes 4.13 4.06 4.21 4.06 3.99 4.14
Horses 4.12 3.99 4.24 4.37 4.33 4.42
Ducks 4.05 3.87 4.23 4.07 3.95 4.19
Newts 4.01 3.78 4.25 3.75 3.54 3.96
Rats 4.00 3.74 4.26 4.41 4.34 4.49
Frogs 3.98 3.78 4.18 3.87 3.73 4.00
Rabbits 3.98 3.86 4.09 4.16 4.10 4.22
Hedgehogs 3.96 3.66 4.26 3.89 3.73 4.05
Goats 3.95 3.78 4.11 4.22 4.13 4.31
Toads 3.94 3.52 4.36 3.67 3.66 3.98
Lizards 3.93 3.85 4.01 3.92 3.85 3.99
Sheep 3.92 3.70 4.15 4.12 3.97 4.27
Chinchillas 3.91 3.64 4.17 4.02 3.87 4.18
Birds 3.90 3.83 3.97 3.99 3.95 4.03
Fish, Saltwater 3.89 3.83 3.95 4.18 4.08 4.27
Exotic Mammals 3.84 3.68 3.99 3.80 3.71 3.90
Pigs 3.82 3.61 4.03 3.92 3.78 4.06
Fish, Freshwater 3.82 3.77 3.87 3.91 3.87 3.95
Turkeys 3.81 3.70 3.92 3.78 3.70 3.87
Geese 3.78 3.42 4.13 3.32 3.01 3.63
Chickens 3.76 3.63 3.88 3.97 3.91 4.03
Guinea Pigs 3.73 3.56 3.90 4.04 3.96 4.11
Invertebrates 3.64 3.49 3.80 3.90 3.81 3.99
Scorpions 3.59 3.38 3.80 3.15 2.68 3.63
Gamebirds 3.58 3.29 3.87 3.38 3.18 3.59
Hamsters 3.44 3.29 3.60 3.72 3.65 3.79
Gerbils 3.38 3.00 3.77 3.70 3.52 3.88
Mice 3.37 3.06 3.67 3.67 3.52 3.82

3. Dog owners are generally happier with larger dogs. This is especially true for men.

This finding is based on 23,550 dog breed reviews from 12,167 dog owners from 106 countries.

Each purebred dog breed was assigned a size score:

  • 1 = Toy
  • 2 = Small
  • 3 = Medium
  • 4 = Large
  • 5 = Giant

75% of the reviews were of purebred dogs, and 25% were of mixed breeds. For the purposes of the study, each purebred dog breed was assigned to one of five size categories: toy, small, medium, large, and giant. Each mixed breed dog was assigned a size score based on 80% of the dog’s primary breed, and 20% for its secondary breed (if any was identified).

The correlation between dog size and satisfaction is beta = .10, 95% CI [0.08, 0.11]. For women, satisfaction was higher with larger dogs, beta = .07. Men were similarly more satisfied with large dogs, but the correlation was even stronger, beta = .12.

We also tested curvilinear size effects for men and women. There was a significant curvilinear effect for men, such that they essentially preferred size 4-5 dogs equally. For women, there was no curvilinear effect; thus women preferred bigger dogs in a linearly increasing fashion.

Two-Way Interactions

Age

Additional analysis finds there is also a two-way interaction between age and dog size in predicting satisfaction. Basically, the preference for bigger dogs is strongest among younger individuals, whereas older individuals (around age 70) appear to prefer all sizes of dogs equally.

This effect can be phrased as:

  • Younger people more strongly prefer large dogs than do older people
  • Older people (around age 70) are equally satisfied with any dog type

Within-Person Findings

For the sake of explanation, imagine that we have two individuals, Sarah and Mark. A "between-persons" analysis answers a question similar to, "If Sarah buys a large dog and Mark buys a small one, will Sarah be more satisfied than Mark?" In contrast, a within-persons analysis answers a question similar to, "If Sarah buys both a large dog and a small dog, will she be more satisfied with the large one?"

It turns out that dog size is correlated with satisfaction both between- and within-persons. The between-persons correlation means that people who buy large dogs report higher satisfaction than people who buy smaller ones (beta = 0.05, 95% CI [0.03, 0.07]). The within-persons correlation means that, for people who buy multiple dogs of different sizes, they tend to report the greatest satisfaction with the larger dogs (beta = 0.13, 95% CI [0.11, 0.15]). Notice that the within-person correlation is more than double the size of the between-person one. This seems to suggest that people who have more experience (because they've owned multiple pets) have stronger size preferences.

Why are dog owners happier with large dogs than small dogs?

Bigger dogs are, in fact, rated as more child-safe (r = .12), family-friendly (r = .03), emotionally stable (r = .20), less-barky (r = .21), and more trainable (r = .15).

If we control for all five variables at the same time, the correlation between dog size and satisfaction completely disappears (and, in fact, reverses to beta = -0.03, 95% CI [-0.03, -0.01]). This means that, collectively, people do not appear to prefer larger dogs per se. Rather, they appear to prefer large dogs because they are more child safe, emotionally stable, trainable, and less prone to barking. And if anything, it appears that all other things equal people might actually slightly prefer smaller dogs--if only they could find a child-safe, emotionally stable, and trainable small dog that doesn't bark a lot.

Looking at the variables individually, it appears that the biggest mediating variables are emotional stability, not barking, and trainability. Controlling only emotional stability (and not the other four variables), the correlation between dog size and satisfaction drops to beta = 0.01, 95% CI [-0.01, 0.02]. Thus, people appear to prefer larger dogs mostly because they're more emotionally stable. The other variables have smaller effects. Controlling for only barking reduces the size/satisfaction correlation to 0.03. Controlling only trainability reduces the size/satisfaction correlation to 0.03. Controlling only child-safety reduces the size/satisfaction correlation to 0.05. And controlling only family-friendliness reduces the size/satisfaction correlation to 0.09.

Summary

  • People like bigger dogs more than smaller ones.
  • The preference for bigger dogs can be fully explained by the fact that bigger dogs are more emotionally stable, trainable, child-safe, and less-barky than smaller dogs. In other words, people don't prefer large dogs per se. They prefer large dogs because large dogs possess those desirable qualities.
  • The preference for larger dogs is smaller among older people. For example, younger people generally prefer large dogs. But people in their 70s appear to love small and large dogs equally. None of the variables we examined can explain why this age difference in size preferences exists.
  • The preference for larger dogs is bigger among men. None of the variables we examined can explain why this gender difference in size preferences exists.

4. Dog lovers are more curious and open to new experiences than cat lovers.

This finding is based on cat and/or dog reviews from 9,172 individuals from 106 nations who also completed the Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPI) of the Big Five (or Five-Factor Model) personality dimensions.

We found that cat owners are less open to experience than dog owners. Also, openness predicts lower satisfaction with cats and higher satisfaction with dogs.

5. Moody and anxious men don't care for cats. In contrast, moody and anxious women enjoy cats.

This finding is based on cat and/or dog reviews from 9,172 individuals from 106 nations who also completed the Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPI) of the Big Five (or Five-Factor Model) personality dimensions.

Neurotic men (i.e., ones who experience a lot of negative emotions) tended to be less satisfied with cats than more emotionally stable men (i.e., ones who experience fewer negative emotions). In contrast, emotional stability did not strongly predict whether women like cats or not.

6. Pet and livestock owners say that geese and scorpions are the least satisfying animals to own.

Based on 64,284 reviews from 16,792 individuals from 113 nations. 32 types of pet and livestock animals included in the survey.

Appendix: RightPet Personality Survey Materials

RightPet members who submitted an animal breed / species review were required to also fill out a one-time personality quiz, which asked them to assign as 0 – 5 score to 14 items.

The RightPet personality survey included the “Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPI)” developed by Gosling, Renfrow & Swann (2003)

https://gosling.psy.utexas.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/JRP-03-tipi.pdf

1. I see myself as extraverted, enthusiastic.

2. I see myself as critical, quarrelsome.

3. I see myself as dependable, self-disciplined.

4. I see myself as anxious, easily upset.

5. I see myself as open to new experiences, complex.

6. I see myself as reserved, quiet.

7. I see myself as sympathetic, warm.

8. I see myself as disorganized, careless.

9. I see myself as calm, emotionally stable.

10. I see myself as conventional, uncreative.

Screenshot of RightPet “Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPI)” Form

The RightPet personality survey also included four items designed to measure people's attachment styles:

1. I often worry that my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends don't really care for me.

2. I'm often afraid that my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends may abandon me.

3. I usually discuss my problems and concerns with my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends.

4. I don't feel comfortable opening up to my parents, romantic partner, and/or close friends.