Get rates for your pet:

See My Rates »
Retrieve a Saved Quote

Want to Be Happier? Buy Your Pet a Treat or Gift

By Christy True
published: April 12, 2021 • 3 min. read
Dog with toys

Key Takeaways

  • A new study says that the simple act of buying your pet a toy, treat, or experience might make you happier.
  • The amount spent does not seem to be material to the mood boost; even $5 will do the trick.
  • Making it a regular habit to purchase your pet a gift can be an intentional way to maximize emotional well-being, much like meditation or exercise.

Research has proven that pets make us healthier, happier, and less lonely.

Now it appears that just spending money on your pet can have mood-boosting effects for pet parents. A new study in The Journal of Positive Psychology says that the simple act of purchasing a toy or treat or spa treatment for your dog or cat will make you happier than even buying something for yourself.

Cat with toy“Buying their pet a gift might not turn a sad pet owner into a happy one, but our findings suggest an opportunity for pet owners to experience greater happiness,” the researchers wrote.

And the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost much. Even buying a $5 ball or a bit of catnip is enough to improve well-being, the study indicates. Participants reported that they typically bought their dogs and cats new toys, treats, or outfits.

And your pet will probably get a jolt of joy from it, too, at least until that tennis ball is destroyed or the catnip is gone.

The researchers tested their theory with two experiments, with 188 pet parent study participants in the Chicago, Ill. area:

  • Asking pet parents to recall a time they spent money on their pet and how happy it made them compared to spending money on themselves.
  • Randomly assigning one group of pet parents to spend $5 on their pet, and another group to spend it on themselves or another person. The group who spent the money on their pets reported greater happiness than either those who spent it on themselves or another human.

The report highlights that pet parents are willing to spend a lot on spoiling their pets, even while cutting back on spending on themselves. The pet industry has experienced steady growth, even during economic downturns. That seems to be especially true during COVID-19, when people are adopting more pets than ever and spending more time with their furry friends at home.

Boost your happiness with intentional pet gift-buying

Happiness experts say there are various intentional acts that people can take to increase their happiness, such as expressing gratitude, performing kind acts, meditating, and exercising. These researchers suggest that spending money on your pet is another of these regular practices that can maximize your emotional well-being.

The study drew several other conclusions supporting their thesis:

  • People are happier when they spend on strong ties such as family and friends than weak ties such as acquaintances and strangers. Since most people see their pets as family, these cute loved ones would fall into the strong ties category.
  • Researchers also found that happiness is associated with the frequency of positive experiences. Since most pet gifts are small and inexpensive, more than half of pet parents buy their pets a gift at least once per month and on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays.
  • Since prior research has shown that people are happier when they spend on experiences versus material items, this also comes into play with pet gifting. A pet gift is often an experience both the pet and the pet parent can enjoy together, such as a ball for fetch with the dog or a wand feather teaser for the cat.
  • People are happier when they can see the positive impact of their purchase. When giving to their pets, pet parents can witness their pet enjoying a new toy or a special treat.

So, go ahead, give your dog a bone or your cat a kitty condo. The health benefits for you make it well worth the cost.

Just in case you are at a loss for how to spend money on your pet, we have some suggestions here.

Protect your pets – and your wallet – by enrolling in pet insurance. Healthy Paws offers one simple plan to protect dogs and cats from any unexpected accidents or illnesses. Start by getting a free quote.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

Show more