Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness never knew the joy of seeing a dog’s excitement when receiving a new toy. Researchers from Elmhurst University in Elmhurst, Illinois, and colleagues have found that buying your pet a gift triggers greater happiness than buying yourself something.
In the first of two experiments, researchers asked 149 participants to recall a time they spent $5 on something for themselves, their pet, or someone else. The participants wrote down as much detail as possible about the experience and then answered two questions on a scale of 1 to 10—one on their happiness level and the other on where they felt they were in life. The researchers averaged the two scores together and found that spending money on pets elicited the highest level of happiness.
In the second experiment, they gave 188 participants $5 and randomly assigned them to spend the money on themselves, their pets, or someone else by the end of the day. Those who spent the money on themselves typically bought food, while shoppers spending money on pets purchased new toys or a treat and those who spent the funds on someone else made a charitable donation or bought them a gift card, snack, or drink. Researchers then gauged participants' happiness with the same two questions as in the first experiment.
As in the first test, people who spent money on their pets were found to be happier than those who spent money on themselves or others.
The study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, builds on a previous study from the University of British Columbia that found that individuals are happier spending money on others. Since many people consider their pets to be family, the close bonds we form with our pets make us want to keep them happy, according to Psychology Today.
So if you’re in need of a happiness boost, consider buying something for your furry best friend. And if you need ideas, make sure to check out our list of 15 Novelty Toys for Pets.