Study Says Humans Find the Sound of a Dog Whimpering to Be Just as Sad as a Baby Crying

Photo: Mary Altaffer (AP)

A whimpering dog begging for table scraps or a content cat purring away are familiar scenes for pet owners, and most of the time they know exactly what their pets are trying to tell them. The bond between human and pet is a strong one, and now a new study conducted in Denmark concludes that pet owners develop a special sensitivity to all dogs’ and cats’ whines, whimpers, barks, and meows.

According to the study, based out of Aarhus University, dogs are more effective at conveying distress and negative emotion in their sounds than cats. Furthermore, dog and cat owners even rated the sound of a whimpering dog to be just as sad or emotionally compelling as a crying human baby.

“Pet ownership is associated with greater sensitivity to pet distress sounds, and it may be part of the reason why we are willing to spend large amounts of time and resources on our domestic companions. It might also explain why we find interacting with pets so rewarding, and are emotionally impacted by both positive communication signals, like purring and negative, like meows or whines”, explains first author Christine Parsons in a media release.

Over 500 young adults took part in the study, and researchers discovered that dog whines sounded “more negative” to dog or cat owners than people who don’t own any pets. However, cat meows only sounded especially sad to cat owners. This indicates that dogs do a better job of expressing their emotions and eliciting a sympathetic response. In fact, dog whines were considered “sadder” than cat meows across the board, regardless of participants’ pet ownership.

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SOURCE: Study Finds, by John Anderer