These past few decades, social sciences such as psychology and sociology have delved more and more into the mysterious world of online dating. And clearly, that makes a lot of sense—according to the statistical data provided by the Pew Research Center, 48% of young American adults aged 18 to 29 claim to have used online dating sites at least once in their lives. Moreover, 54% of the respondents thought that relationships that begin on a dating site or app are just as successful as those that begin in person. So yeah, this whole online dating thing is pretty serious.

Most would probably agree that one of the central parts of any dating profile is the photos a person decides to upload. When you think about it, that’s pretty much all people see. You should try your best to make a good impression, right? But how do you even do that? What kind of photos should you put on your dating profile?

These two scientists named Lori Kogan and Shelly Volsche were also interested in that. And they chose a quite unique angle to conduct research around. Basically, they wanted to investigate whether the presence of a cat in a photo changes a woman’s perception of a man. You can find the full article on the study they conducted here. By the way, Bored Panda had a chance to ask one of these researchers some interesting questions, so make sure to scroll down and read her answers!

Image credits: Lori Kogan and Shelly Volsch

According to many studies conducted before this one, women view pet owners as more attractive and dateable than non-pet owners. Because of that, Lori Kogan and Shelly Volsche hypothesized that men posing with cats would be more attractive than those posing alone. “Because the association with a pet appears to increase a person’s rated attractiveness, we hypothesized that men posing with cats would be considered more attractive and desirable for short-term causal dating than when posing alone. In addition to attractiveness, we predicted that the cat’s presence would make the men seem more trustworthy, gentle, and caring, alluding to the possibility of a potentially valuable long-term mate and future father,” researches explain in the article.

Above and below, you can see two sets of photos that were used in this study. These sets of photos were shown to 708 young women aged 18 to 24 and they were asked to imagine and rate these guys’ personality traits, attractiveness, dateability, and so on.

Image credits: Lori Kogan and Shelly Volsch

When asked, how they came up with such an interesting idea for a study, Shelly Volsche said this: “Dr. Kogan and I both do work in human-animal interactions from various perspectives. We started thinking about how the meaning and value of pets are changing and began discussing whether or not our relationships with pets influence our dating habits. One of my prior projects with other colleagues found that this is the case (this is the Gray, Volsche, Garcia, & Fisher paper cited in the cat project). However, Dr. Kogan and I began to think more deeply about how different pets are viewed. With the amount of research already existing with dogs, it seemed like a natural step to test if and how male cat owners are perceived among women.”

Image credits: Pixabay

The results indicated that college-age women viewing a photo of a man alone versus a photo of the same man holding a cat rated the man holding the cat as more agreeable and more open, but less masculine, higher on neuroticism, and ultimately, less dateable in the short or long term! It’s important to note that only female respondents who identified as a “cat person” found men holding a cat more desirable for short-term or long-term relationships.

“The results came out to support our hypothesis, though not quite as strongly as we initially thought,” the researcher Shelly Volsche told Bored Panda. “It was interesting that whether the women identified as “cat person,” “dog person,” “both,” or “neither” had an impact, and that women who identified as cat people were more open to dating the men when holding cats compared to dog people. This certainly shows that our perceptions of pet owners as similar or different to us can play a role in our dating decisions.”

Image credits: Pikrepo

When a photo of one of the subjects without a cat was shown to the respondents, 38% of women said they were likely or very likely to casually date him. But when the photo of the same subject with a cat was presented, those numbers dropped to 33% for each category! Besides, the proportion of women saying they’d never consider getting involved with him rose by 5%.

“This study is mostly exploratory. We are trying to understand if and how pets influence people’s dating lives. Much of my work investigates pet parenting, so how does that level of attachment influence whether someone will date someone else with different pets or no interest in pets? It also helps us understand how cultural norms (for example, many people still assume male cat owners are homosexual) are shaping our perceptions of others as potential mates. Perhaps the takeaway is that we should not judge a book by its cover…or in this case, profile picture,” said Shelly Volsche.

Image credits: Flickr

When asked why human-animal interaction is an interesting science object for her, Shelly Volsche told us this: “I grew up on a hobby farm in Wisconsin, just outside Madison. I have always loved animals (I even spent the early part of my adult life as a dog trainer). Because of this, I’ve always been interested in the cognitive and emotional capacities of other species. I love to observe and understand. Since humans are just another animal, I find it interesting how our perceptions of other species shape our interactions. Who is a friend? Foe? Food? Family? We also cannot escape other animals. They are everywhere. This field is about social connections and understanding across all life.”

Image credits: Flickr

Lori Kogan and Shelly Volsche ended their article by providing guides for future research: “A follow-up study with a third comparative photo of a man with a dog could serve to further test the impact of pets by looking across species. For example, would women find the man alone more or less masculine than a man with a dog? Further, what role would the size/breed of the dog play in these perceptions?”

Besides, there are possibly more interesting studies to come in the near future. “I’m working on many projects, including a survey about people’s behavior related to pet care. I also have a paper in review on how pets have shaped our experiences of the shelter in place orders in recent months,” one of the researchers named Shelly Volsche told us.

A lot of internet users seemed to not agree with these results

And some thought that the photos used in the study were a bit off