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03.02.2022: A recent study by Vetmeduni looked into the role of animals in online dating profiles in Vienna and Tokyo. Christian Dürnberger and Svenja Springer (Messerli Research Institute, Unit of Ethics and Human-Animal Studies) investigated the following questions: How many users display animals in their profiles? What kinds of animals are shown particularly often? They found that one in every six profiles showed at least one animal, with dogs and cats being the most popular in both cities. There were significant differences, however. More dogs were shown in profiles from Vienna, whereas in Tokyo more cats were shown. Users in Vienna, women and older users displayed animals more often. Sexual orientation made no significant difference.

Previous “real life” studies have shown that men who are accompanied by a dog are more successful in obtaining a woman’s phone number than without a dog. Since dogs are usually perceived as social animals that need the attention and care of their owner, they seem to reflect positive owner characteristics, which in turn has a positive effect on dating. As the search for partners shifts more and more into the online world, it is no surprise to find animals appearing on dating apps as well. Several studies have already analysed the dating success rate: Does a dog really help to get more “matches”? Or is a guinea pig or a cat the better choice?

Rarely asked question: Are animals included at all?

Until now, however, the question of how many users display animals in their online dating profiles and what kinds of animals are shown has not yet been empirically investigated. Christian Dürnberger and Svenja Springer from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni have now investigated these questions using a comparative observational study of profiles in Vienna and Tokyo on a popular online dating app (n = 2,400). What was new was not only the basic question about how often animals were displayed, but also the fact that the researchers asked about possible differences between age, gender, sexual orientation and the cultural background of the users.

Dogs and cats most popular

“Around 16 percent of the investigated profiles displayed at least one animal. In both cities, dogs were the most frequently shown animal, followed by cats. Users in Vienna, women and older adults were more likely to present animals on their profiles,” says Dürnberger, summarising the main findings of the study. Sexual orientation showed no significant differences in the analysis. Taking the cities together, dogs appeared in around 45 percent of the animal pictures, as compared with cats at 25 percent. “Our data shows that dogs rule the world of online dating pet pictures,” so Dürnberger. “This is even more true for Vienna than Tokyo.”

Insights into daily life with animals

Other animals, such as exotic animals (9.9 percent), farm animals (6.4 percent) or horses (4.6 percent), played a minor role. “We therefore conclude that the animals presented on a dating profile are mostly those with which users have close, frequent contact,” says Springer. That means that people usually don’t show “unusual” animals (such as a dolphin on a diving holiday), but rather want to present an insight into their daily lives with animals.

The study also describes different ways in which animals are presented on the online dating profiles. Two categories were determined to play a special role: Animals are either presented as a close friend or family member; or they serve as a mirror of the user’s personal character traits, presenting the user as being social, for example, or as having a healthy and active lifestyle.

The article “Wanna See My Dog Pic? A Comparative Observational Study of the Presentation of Animals on Online Dating Profiles in Vienna and Tokyo” by Christian Dürnberger and Svenja Springer was published in Animals in January 2022 (open access) and is available online.