Are Your Pets Really Happy in TikTok Videos? Expert Study Reveals Distressing Truth

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TikTok videos of pets acting in funny and unusual ways can look cute and harmless, but are these animals actually in distress without their owners realising?

The experts at Admiral Pet Insurance have investigated how many social media videos are showing pets in visible distress. After analysing a significant sample of almost 700 clips on TikTok, the study reveals that 1 in 5 videos showcase distressed pets.

We had four main factors for this analysis: if the pet was scared/startled, dressed up and being caused apparent discomfort, exposed to harm (loud noises, near a fire, etc.) or showing any signs of being neglected.

The findings:

  • The analysis found that 1 in 5 videos showcased a pet in visible distress, meaning 21% of the clips showed unhappy or uncomfortable animals.
  • Looking just at the clips where we identified a pet in distress, these had received over 228 million likes and a mass of +3 billion views.
  • 51% of the distressed pet videos show them being scared or startled. From our sample, this content was seen over 1.4 billion times and liked more than 104 million times (Figure 1). 
  • 19% of distressed pet videos show them being dressed up. Pets in outfits were viewed over 387 million times and garnered over 31 million likes (Figure 2). 
  • 2 in 5 videos of distressed pets show them in dangerous situations, such as leaving them near open windows, unpredictable new environments, or even exposing them to loud music and sudden sounds (Figure 3).
  • 11% of videos of distressed pets include a neglected animal (Figure 4). They may not be being fed enough or the correct type of food.

This content is accompanied by commentaries from vets, who offer expertise to help ensure your companion is always happy and healthy on camera. You can find the Q&A below.

Figure 1: Videos showing distressed pets being scared or startled

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Figure 2: Videos showing distressed pets being dressed up

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Figure 3: Videos showing distressed pets in dangerous situations

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Figure 4: Videos showing distressed pets being neglected

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Expert commentary from qualified and registered veterinary nurses, Nicki Fox RVN CertVNECC APVN (Wildlife) and Victoria Preece BSc RVN.

1. What is the potential psychological impact of scaring or startling your pets?

Scaring or startling your pet can cause both short and longer-term impacts on their health, whether the trauma is intentional or accidental.

If a pet experiences stress or fear, the emotional part of its brain will override the logical part. The emotion associated with each traumatic experience can affect the animal’s future behaviour and, if left untreated, can impact physical health.

To prevent this kind of reaction, it’s essential to understand your pet’s natural behavioural traits and individual personalities. This will allow you to identify possible causes of stress before exposure and allow your pet to cope better if they encounter them.

2. What should owners consider when dressing their pets in costumes or clothes?

Are they ‘sulking’ when wearing a costume? Are they stressed and anxious? It’s important to consider the natural movements of your pet and their ability to maintain a normal body temperature (hyperthermia can significantly affect brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, French bulldogs, and Persian cats).

Some clothes and costumes can be restrictive and prevent grooming behaviours or running and jumping, and even make it difficult to go to the toilet. This loss of natural behaviours and expressions can cause stress and anxiety.

There is also a potential danger if clothes or costumes become entangled or tightened and affect breathing or circulation. Make sure to use high-quality costumes that are made with pets in mind. Don’t use costumes where the risk of foreign body ingestion becomes apparent, including small parts of clothes (buttons, toggles, zips, pom-poms) which are easily eaten and get stuck in the digestive system.

3. What can owners do to ensure their pet is comfortable when creating content for social media?

Pet owners who are successful on social media can often monetise their pet’s cuteness, with certain companions building follower counts and earning paid partnerships that rival your favourite human influencer.

But it’s important to understand that some of the cutest and funniest pets on the internet have been bred to have unusual characteristics that put them at a higher risk of health problems. Are they sitting that way to be cute on Instagram, or does it hurt to sit normally? Is that bark funny, or is it a sign of breathing difficulties?

If you dream of your pet becoming a social media star, the best thing you can do is capture them acting naturally. A sleeping cat is cute enough without any extra encouragement, and a dog chasing its tail can happen without any human involvement. Just let them be themselves, and they’re sure to make you laugh on their own.

Methodology:

  • Data was sourced through TikTok videos from all over the world via a manual analysis of videos under hashtags: , , , , , and .
  • The data is based on a sample size of 670 TikTok videos that were active and viewable on October 18th, 2023. All duplicated videos and compilations were excluded.
  • From the sample we identified, we categorised them based on four main indicators: was the pet being scared or startled to cause a reaction; was the pet dressed up in an outfit that was causing it discomfort; was the pet exposed to harm, such as being around loud noises or near fire; and did the pet show any signs of being neglected.
  • We also noted how many views and likes these videos had to estimate the reach of the videos.

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