People who buy cat food and dog food for their four-legged friends benefit from the social and emotional support they provide.
According to new research by psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University, pet owners are just as close to their furry friends as they are to the key people in their lives.
Published by the American Psychological Association, the study also showed that pet owners fared better in terms of well-being than non-pet owners in a number of different dimensions.
Lead researcher Allen McConnell, from the Miami University in Ohio, said: "Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."
The researchers also noted that the study provides evidence to suggest that pets better the lives of their owners and are an important source of emotional support.