With pets in 68 percent of U.S. households these days, it can be hard to find a person who doesn’t have a furry friend—or a person who will admit they don’t like them.
Ever wondered why you’re so obsessed with pets? Or repulsed at the idea of having one? Your romantic love style might provide an explanation.
Michelle Guthrie, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Penn State University, studies the six types of romantic love:
Everyone’s love style is a mixture of these six factors. (You can take this New York Times quiz to learn your top two types.) But your leanings might be indicators for how you seek other relationships, including those with non-human companions.
Guthrie, a pet owner and lover herself, “wondered if how we view humans is related to how we view and love our pets,” she said.
Her research team compared people’s romantic love styles to the way they think about pets and got some interesting results: One style was linked to loving pets, while another was associated with avoiding them.
On top of being over-the-moon for their significant others, erotic lovers are the pet people among us, the researchers found. Their positive attitude toward pets stood out when compared to any other love style.
“It might just be that erotic lovers desire closeness and intimacy with other people and their pets as well,” Guthrie said. “They’re approaching all relationships in a loving and intimate ways.”
People who are more satisfied with their romantic relationships were also more into pets.
“People may experience and view the human-human relationship and human-animal relationship in similarly positive ways,” the researchers wrote in their paper on the study. “People who view romantic relationships as important similarly view their pet relationship.”
And you might think that single people would be bigger pet lovers than partnered people—after all, they have more time for a relationship with a pet and might rely on them for companionship, too. But the researchers found that partnered people feel more warm and fuzzy toward pets than single people do.
“Viewing pets positively could lead people to view other humans more positively,… increasing the tendency for people to initiate romantic relationships,” Guthrie and her team wrote. “In fact, research has found that pet ownership is associated with seeking closeness to other humans.”
On the other end of the spectrum are the ludic lovers. Just like they aren’t too crazy about human-to-human relationships, ludic lovers are not pet fans, Guthrie’s research found.
“They’re more focused on the self and aren’t motivated to be close to other humans, so that tends to be also how they view their pet relationships,” Guthrie said. “They also don’t desire pet relationships.”
It could be that they’re “sort of avoiding all relationships,” she said.
“A cynical view of romantic love… seems to be transferred to the owner–pet relationship,” the researchers wrote. “People who endorse negative attitudes toward romantic love similarly dislike pets.”
When they do fall into a romantic relationship, ludic lovers tend to be the least satisfied.
“Ludus is the only love style linked to low levels of romantic relationship satisfaction, and similarly appears to be a strong predictor of negative feelings toward pets,” they wrote.
What’s the moral of this puppy love story? The researchers believe these connections indicate fostering good relationships with your pets can mean good relationships with people, and vice versa.
“People who view their romantic partners as a ‘perfect fit’ tend to view their pet as a ‘perfect fit,'” the researchers wrote.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for the daily newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she edits and writes the articles that appear on Rewire, and works with its pool of freelance journalists. She has also written episodes of PBS Digital Studios series “Sound Field” and “America From Scratch.” She’s the host of the history webseries “30-Second Minnesota,” which was nominated for an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.