Benefits to pets from the human-animal bond: a study of pet owner behaviors and their relation to attachment
Douglas, Deanna K.
AdvisorShore, Elsie R.
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Researchers have demonstrated clear benefits to humans in their relationships with companion animals; however, little is known about how these animals may benefit from their relationships with humans. The purpose of the current study is to investigate potential benefits to a pet of living in a household, as defined by an array of specific pet owner behaviors. A second purpose is to investigate the relationship between self-reported attachment to a pet and dimensions of potentially beneficial owner behaviors on behalf of that animal. Participants in the current study were pet-owning undergraduate students (N = 501) from a large Midwestern university who were surveyed on an array of behaviors they may perform for or with a companion animal. Self-reported attachment to the animal was measured using the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (Johnson, Garrity, & Stallones, 1992). Factor analysis resulted in five dimensions of behavior for dog owners (n = 350), named Indoor/Outdoor, Attention, Inclusion, Well-being, and Safety. Four dimensions were found for cat owners (n = 151) and named Indoor/Outdoor, Indulgence, Possessions, and Independence. The Indoor/Outdoor dimension was similar to factors found in previous research. The rest of the dimensions appear to be uniquely important in terms of either dog or cat ownership. Regression analysis using factor scores to predict attachment revealed that 38.6% of the variance in attachment scores for dog owners and 23.6% for cat owners was explained by the dimensions. The results of the factor analysis provide a picture of what human care giving might mean, in terms of beneficial behavior, to the animal. The results also indicate that the basic needs of companion animals are being met regardless of the degree of attachment: low attachment may not necessarily mean poor care. Attachment does, however, appear to make a difference in the life of a companion animal in terms of enrichment. Dog owners who report higher attachment tend to include the dog in family activities, and provide certain kinds of attentions. Cat owners who report higher attachment are more likely to have a cat that stays close by their side, and are also more likely to provide gifts and treats to the cat.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology.