happy golden retriever playing with a stick outside

Is Your Pet an Optimist or a Pessimist?

Knowing whether your pet is an optimist or a pessimist can help you understand your four-legged pal.

What Is the Difference Between Pessimism and Optimism?

One common way to explain pessimism versus optimism is the water glass metaphor. People who see the glass as half full are optimistic. Those who view it as half empty are pessimistic. Our pets don’t drink out of glasses, but we can tweak the metaphor to suit them.

Bowl Is Half Full Pets

For optimistic pets, the world is their oyster! They believe treats, goodness, and fun are waiting for them around every corner. They tend to be confident, outgoing, curious, persistent, and very interested in what’s going on at every minute.

It’s a beautiful approach to life, but it can lead to trouble too. If we could read an optimist pet’s mind, it might go something like this:

“What’s that noise across the street? It has to be something really cool. I’ll just run out and check it out.”

“Everything my person drops on the floor must taste good! I’ll just scoop it up and swallow it down.”

“My cat at home loves me, so all cats must think I’m the bomb. I think I’ll run up and sniff that unfamiliar kitty.”

While optimistic pets can be a lot of fun, they may need more training and supervision, especially when they’re in a new or busy place.

Optimistic dogs are a great choice if you want a pet that competes in sports, like obstacle courses or field events. They’re typically willing to try anything and go at it with gusto.

Fun Fact

One study showed that 90% of humans can be categorized into four personality types: pessimistic, optimistic, envious, and trusting. And most of us (30%) are envious.

Bowl Is Half Empty Pets

To the pessimistic pet, the world is a risky place. They approach things with caution and worry that something could harm them at any moment. They like to stick close to their pet parent for protection.

This view of life can help keep them safe from accidents. For instance, if they hear something rustling in the bushes, they’re likely to think it’s something that wants to eat them—no need to take a chance and check it out themselves.

Pessimistic pets can be a mixed bag. While it’s nice to have a pet that loves being with you, it can get frustrating if they’re too clingy. Pessimistic pets can also be overly sensitive and easily discouraged. If we could get into their heads, we might hear them thinking:

“I just heard a strange noise. I’d better run and hide, or something really terrible will happen.”

“I love my treats, but those new ones don’t look or smell the same. I’m definitely not going to eat them.”

“My person looked away while I was in the middle of a trick. They must be mad. I’m going to sulk in the corner.”

Their sensitivity can make them fantastic service animals and even heroes! Pessimistic dogs respond quickly to correcting unwanted behaviors and don’t naturally want to explore everything around them. While a seemingly pessimistic cat named Baby overcame her fears and leapt into action to save her humans from a blazing fire—she is a true cat hero!

british shorthair cat playing in a cardboard box at home

Nature Versus Nurture

What makes a pet an optimist or pessimist? Part of it is nature. Just like us, some pets are born that way.

Another factor is nurture. Your pet’s early experiences can affect their outlook on life. If they were coddled from the time they were a bouncing baby furball, they might see the world as a wonderful place. Pets who had a harsher upbringing probably see things much differently.

Experiences can also cause pets to shift from one side to another. I had a pup that was lunged at and bit by a larger dog while we were walking around our neighborhood. She recovered from her injuries, which luckily weren’t too bad. But her carefree and outgoing attitude changed a bit after the incident. She became more guarded and less open to greeting other dogs.

Did you know?

You can strengthen your bond with your pet by speaking to them in their language of love, such as giving gifts or using words of affirmation.

Other Factors

Health can play a role in our pet’s outlook too. If you notice a sudden change in your pet’s behavior or personality, you should check in with your veterinarian. Hiding more than usual, becoming agitated more easily, or acting aggressively can be signs of sickness.

You can also ask yourself: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Pets can pick up on our feelings and learn from them. This is especially true of dogs who were domesticated by getting into the good graces of humans.

Cats maybe not so much. They domesticated themselves and often seem like they hate us.

Fun Fact

Sagittarian pets are known to be optimists and have happy, outgoing natures. What can your pet’s Zodiac sign tell you about them?

Do Pets Help Mental Health?

Regardless of whether your pet is an optimist or a pessimist, pets are good for our mental health. They make us laugh after a long day with their crazy antics, cheer us up with those adoring eyes, and listen to us talk about our problems without judgment.

Depending on your personality, you might find your match better with an optimist or pessimist. If you’re a chill kind of person, you may enjoy a pessimistic pet who isn’t always looking for a new adventure.

Or maybe opposites attract. You could be drawn to pets who are social butterflies and encourage you to get out of your shell.

scruffy black and tan dog being petted by a red haired woman outside

Tips to Care for Optimistic and Pessimistic Pets

So what does it mean if your pet is an optimist or pessimist? It can help you train them more easily and take better care of them.

For instance, since optimistic pets tend to act before they think, you should pay extra attention to pet-proofing your home. You’ll also want to keep a closer eye on them in situations where their unbounded curiosity could get them in trouble.

Quick Tip

If your optimistic pal gets hurt, pet insurance can help you manage the vet bills. Find out what to know before you buy.

As far as training, optimistic pets love a reward! Be sure to use this to your advantage when you’re teaching them new tricks. Have a handful of treats at the ready and shower them with lots of praise when they do a good job.

Pessimistic pets are naturally more hesitant and less apt to take risks. You should still make sure their environment is safe, but they might not need as much supervision as their optimistic counterparts.

When training a pessimistic pet, remember that they can get frustrated when they don’t succeed. Be patient and keep your focus on them while you’re working on a command. They typically react well to loads of positive reinforcement.

These risk-averse pets can have trouble with separation anxiety. You can help them cope by turning on the television when you leave the house, so they feel less alone. Also, consider a 2-way camera so you can drop in on your pet while you’re out.

Understanding how your pet’s mind works can make it easier to love them just the way they are.