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Your chances of living happily ever after may be better if you don't mind walking the dog or cleaning out the litter box.

People who live with cats and dogs seem to be more happy with each other and have more contact with other people, a University at Buffalo researcher reported to the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

Karen Allen described her evaluations of 100 couples, half of whom owned pets and half of whom didn't. She had the people fill out standard questionnaires to assess relationship closeness and also measured people's blood pressure while they were put under stressful conditions.

On average, the pet owners demonstrated more closeness to their mates and experienced less physiological reaction to stress, such as increased blood pressure, than did the petless people.

Questionnaires also indicated that the pet owners had more outside contacts with other people.

"We don't know specifically why this is so," said Ms. Allen. "Pet owners may be the kind of people who inherently seek out more social contact. On the other hand, there may be something in the relationship between people and pets that enhances social interaction."

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