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Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia


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Studies that have examined pet loss hypothesize that attachment, representations of death, and the belief in an afterlife for animals may influence owners’ bereavement and depressive outcomes. The following instruments were administered to 159 Italian participants recruited through snowball sampling: the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), the Pet Bereavement Questionnaire (PBQ), the Testoni Death Representation Scale (TDRS), and Beck’s Depression Inventory II (BDI-II). Questions concerning pet euthanasia-related issues and the relationship between owners and veterinarians were also submitted to the participants. A path model was conducted, showing that the representation of death and the attachment to a pet had a direct effect on pet grief, which in turn had a direct effect on depression. The results show a positive correlation between the LAPS and PBQ factors, particularly with the PBQ factor Grief. The LAPS factors positively correlated with the TDRS representation of Death as a Passage and negatively correlated with the TDRS representation of Death as Annihilation. The LAPS People Substituting factor positively correlated with the total score and the Cognitive-Affective factor of the BDI-II. The PBQ factors positively correlated with the BDI-II, whereas only the TDRS Death as Annihilation factor positively correlated with the BDI-II. Belief in a transcendent dimension was associated with higher scores on the PBQ Guilt factor and the TDRS factors of Death as a Passage and Death as Change, whereas these beliefs were associated with lower scores on the TDRS factor Death as Annihilation. The results indicated that the sensitivity of the veterinarian and a veterinarian who helps owners make conscious and informed decisions for their pet and choose the right time to perform euthanasia are important variables in the management of pet loss. However, these factors are not sufficient and psychological support should be improved to help owners better cope with grief.
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Address for correspondence:
Prof. Ines Testoni,
FISPPA Department,
Via Venezia 8, 35131
Padova, Italy.
135 Anthrozoös DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2017.1270599
Pet Loss and Representations
of Death, Attachment,
Depression, and Euthanasia
Ines Testoni, Loriana De Cataldo, Lucia Ronconi, and
Adriano Zamperini
Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Pedagogy and Applied
Psychology (FISPPA), University of Padova, Padova, Italy
ABSTRACT Studies that have examined pet loss hypothesize that attach-
ment, representations of death, and the belief in an afterlife for animals may
influence owners’ bereavement and depressive outcomes. The following in-
struments were administered to 159 Italian participants recruited through
snowball sampling: the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), the Pet
Bereavement Questionnaire (PBQ), the Testoni Death Representation Scale
(TDRS), and Beck’s Depression Inventory II (BDI-II). Questions concerning pet
euthanasia-related issues and the relationship between owners and veteri-
narians were also submitted to the participants. A path model was conducted,
showing that the representation of death and the attachment to a pet had a
direct effect on pet grief, which in turn had a direct effect on depression. The
results show a positive correlation between the LAPS and PBQ factors,
particularly with the PBQ factor Grief. The LAPS factors positively correlated
with the TDRS representation of Death as a Passage and negatively correlated
with the TDRS representation of Death as Annihilation. The LAPS People
Substituting factor positively correlated with the total score and the Cognitive-
Affective factor of the BDI-II. The PBQ factors positively correlated with the
BDI-II, whereas only the TDRS Death as Annihilation factor positively correlated
with the BDI-II. Belief in a transcendent dimension was associated with higher
scores on the PBQ Guilt factor and the TDRS factors of Death as a Passage
and Death as Change, whereas these beliefs were associated with lower
scores on the TDRS factor Death as Annihilation.
The results indicated that the sensitivity of the veterinarian and a veterinarian
who helps owners make conscious and informed decisions for their pet and
choose the right time to perform euthanasia are important variables in the man-
agement of pet loss. However, these factors are not sufficient and psychological
support should be improved to help owners better cope with grief.
Keywords: afterlife, depression, euthanasia, grief, pet bereavement, pet
loss, representations of death
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Cite this article: Testoni, I., De Cataldo, L., Ronconi, L., & Zamperini, A. (2017). Pet Loss and Representations of Death, At-
tachment, Depression, and Euthanasia. Anthrozoös, 30(1), 135-148. doi:10.1080/08927936.2017.1270599
In the past two decades, there has been increased interest in the issues of pet loss
and grief in the field of human–animal interactions. Previous studies have recognized
the importance of pet bereavement, and some research indicates that this experience
may cause depression (Davis, 2011; Planchon & Templer, 1996; Planchon, Templer, Stokes,
& Keller, 2002). Despite their importance, however, factors that may negatively influence grief
outcomes, such as ontological representations of death, belief in an afterlife, and the practice
of euthanasia, have not been sufficiently studied.
Studies on grief following the death of a beloved person show that religious and spiritual
beliefs significantly help people deal with death and bereavement (Becker et al., 2007; Hays
& Hendrix, 2008; Wortmann & Park, 2008). In particular, these beliefs are valuable for coping
with life stress (Park, 2005), health problems (Pearce et al., 2002), end-of-life or palliative care
(Kallenberg, 2000; Sinclair, 2006) and continuing bonds (Benore & Park, 2004). According to
Terror Management Theory (TMT), the main factor that characterizes any religion with regard
to the management of mortality salience is that the religion acts as a buffer against the aware-
ness of death (Greenberg et al., 1992). However, few studies have examined the influence of
representations of death, transcendence and relationships with animals.
In Western culture, the essential difference between humans and animals is supported by
the metaphysical definition of the presence/absence of a soul, which is assumed to be the
immutable essence that guarantees an afterlife. This basic categorization determines the
fundamental distinction of status among different beings (Fidler, 2004) and influences the
rudimentary social categorization processes that discriminate between superior and inferior
beings, with the former having a soul and the latter lacking essential and immortal principles
(humans versus animals). However, some cultural and social representations humanize
animals. This humanization grants animals an afterlife and assumes that they deserve to be
respected, similar to human beings (Asquith, 1986; Giffney & Hird, 2008; Spencer, 1952).
From a psychological perspective, this tendency is determined by social and effectance
motivations (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007). For example, people who lack a connection
with other humans attempt to compensate for this shortage through intense and significant
relationships with animals (Albert & Bulcroft, 1988; Epley et al., 2007).
As indicated by Fidler (2004), there is a tendency to believe that both humans and animals
will experience an afterlife. Therefore, animal immortality has become a new form of represen-
tation in Western culture that has resulted in animals being considered increasingly similar to
humans and worthy of our moral thinking (Midgley, 1994; Serpell, 1996). This issue is likely to
be of particular interest to people who live closely with pets and develop a strong bond with
them. Research on pet grief is particularly significant because an increasing number of
households worldwide have pets, which usually die before their owners do.
In Italy, there are approximately 60.5 million pets (Euromonitor International, http://www., and 92% of people living with a companion animal believe that they
could not do without them because these animals are an integral part of their family and a
source of wellbeing (ASSALCO, 2015). Therefore, the number of studies investigating the
relationship between attachment and pet grief has increased significantly. Studies show that
the strength of the attachment bond to a pet is a significant predictor of the severity of grief
(Field, Orsini, Gavish, & Packman, 2009; Gerwolls & Labott, 1994; Gosse & Barnes, 1994).
Furthermore, this experience of death is a risk factor for depression (Stallones, 1994; Planchon
et al., 2002), particularly for women and people living alone, regardless of whether the loss
occurs suddenly or as a result of euthanasia (Davis, 2011).
Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia
136 Anthrozoös
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The majority of pet owners maintain ongoing and meaningful ties with their pets after the
pet’s death (Camark & Packman, 2011), and the belief in an afterlife for a pet has been reported
as a potentially helpful factor in coping with pet loss (Davis et al., 2003). Recently, it has been
recognized that pets can be viewed as attachment figures whose loss elicits a significant grief
response (Zilcha-Mano et al., 2011) that is similar to the response elicited by the death of a
human attachment figure (Archer & Winchester 1994; Gerwolls & Labott, 1994; Field et al., 2009).
However, grief that derives from this experience is the prototypical example of “disenfranchised
grief” (Doka, 2008) because it is not yet culturally and socially recognized as a significant loss
(Doka, 1985). Grief due to the loss of a pet is an underestimated issue due to the cultural image
of animals as inferior beings that should not be loved in the same way as humans. Therefore,
bereavement due to the loss of a pet is widely considered nonsense.
The societal difficulty in accepting the loss of a pet as a legitimate source of grief indicates that
society is still unable to confer meaning on the death of animals, particularly from a moral point of
view. In particular, the practice of euthanasia, which may be influenced by ontological represen-
tations of death, requires the definition of meanings and values (Davis et al., 2003).
Anthropomorphism confers human characteristics on animals. Therefore, many people may have
problems with euthanasia because this kind of death may cause moral difficulties. As a result, it
is particularly important for euthanasia to be performed sensitively and skillfully because it can
complicate and exacerbate the negative feelings associated with grief (Lagoni et al., 1994).
In our research, we aimed to consider the relationship between ontological representations
of death (death as a passage to an afterlife vs. annihilation) and the attachment of the owner to
the pet to analyze how these variables are linked to grief and depression. Furthermore, we
aimed to consider the relationship between euthanasia-related issues and grief.
Aims and Hypothesis
This study examined pet bereavement to better understand the relationship between ontological
representations of death and attachment. The aim was to describe this relationship using a
structural model in which the representation of death as annihilation (the negation of any after-
life) and the attachment of the owner to the pet were the independent variables. Grief was the
moderator variable, and depression was the dependent variable. Due to their possible correla-
tion with grief, we also examined the management of euthanasia and the relationship between
the pet owner and the veterinarian.
Participants and Procedure
This study involved 159 adult participants (111 females and 48 males) in Northern Italy who
were selected using snowball sampling. The inclusion criteria were as follows: having experi-
enced the death of a pet, being at least 18 years old, and understanding the Italian language.
The participants completed a self-administered paper survey. We purposely avoided adver-
tising our research through veterinary clinics, pet stores, and animal welfare associations in an
attempt to recruit different types of pet owners. We initially solicited respondents through word
of mouth and an association located in Milan. A brief e-mail describing the aim of our research
was sent to the mailing list of the association. People willing to participate were asked to con-
tact us directly at our e-mail address. The paper questionnaires were delivered and returned
both by hand and by post. In the latter cases, we provided a self-addressed, stamped enve-
lope. All questionnaires were returned. Subsequently, the participants were asked to recruit
Testoni et al.
137 Anthrozoös
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other potential participants. In many cases, the participants voluntarily recruited other
participants without having to be asked. In total, 160 questionnaires were distributed and one
questionnaire was lost. The response rate for completing the instrument was 100%.
The sample consisted mostly of women (69.8%). The mean age of the participants was
45 years (SD = 14.7), with ages ranging from 18 to 79. The majority of the respondents were
well-educated, with 39.6% reporting a university degree, 49.7% a high-school degree, 7.5%
a middle school education, 2.5% an elementary school education, and 0.6% uneducated.
Most of the participants were employed (72%). Regarding their marital status, 52% of the
participants were married or cohabitating, 34% were single, 9% were separated/divorced,
and 5% were widowed. In addition, 46% of the respondents had children. Regarding their
housing conditions, 49% of the participants lived with at least one other adult but no children,
28% lived alone, 22% lived with adults and children, and 1% lived only with children. With
respect to an afterlife, 59% declared a belief in God, and 66% believed in an afterlife. Of these
respondents, 13% believed an afterlife was only for humans, and 53% felt it was for both
people and animals. The respondents had experienced the death of dogs (69%) and cats
(25%), with other animal types constituting a small minority (6%) that included horses, fish,
birds, and ferrets. For the majority of the respondents, the pet’s death occurred two years
before the interview (65%).
The mean age of the pet at death was 11 years. The average length of ownership was
10 years (SD = 5.2) and the pet’s age at death (years) was 10.7 (SD = 5.5). Regarding the
circumstances of death, 50% of the respondents declared that the death was unexpected
and that they opted for euthanasia. In the participants’ opinion, veterinarians gave clear and
complete information on the pet’s health condition (63%), involved the owners in the end- of-
life decisions for their pet (59%), and gave them sufficient time to consider the decision (58%).
Euthanasia was mainly performed at a veterinary clinic (81%) when the owner was present
(77%). Most of the participants (83%) felt supported by others, and 33% used pet funeral
services. In the owners’ opinion, euthanasia was performed at the right time (86%), and the
veterinarian was sensitive toward the owner and the pet during euthanasia (71%) and
provided proper information on the procedure (92%). Only 25% of the participants felt guilty.
Tables 1 and 2 describe the main characteristics of the participants and their pets.
The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Psychology School at the
University of Padova.
This was introduced by an information sheet that included a general description of the ques-
tionnaire and a consent form ensuring anonymity and privacy. There were two parts to the
questionnaire. The first involved the traits of the participants and included the owner’s attach-
ment to the pet, bereavement, representation of death, and depression. The instruments used
to measure these were:
Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) (Johnson, Garrity, & Stallones, 1995): This is a
23-item scale measuring pet attachment. Respondents answer questions on a 0–3 Likert-
type scale for each of the following factors: “General Attachment” (items: 10, 11, 12, 13,
15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23), “People Substituting” (items: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9), and “Animal
Rights/Animal Welfare,” which assesses the pet’s status within the household (items: 8,
14, 16, 20). The LAPS has high internal consistency (Cronbach’s = 0.928), a meaningful
Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia
138 Anthrozoös
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factor structure, and good construct validity, and has been used in a variety of settings
(Templer & Arikawa, 2011).
Pet Bereavement Questionnaire (PBQ) (Hunt & Padilla, 2006): This is a 16-item scale
measuring pet bereavement. Respondents answer questions on a 4-point Likert scale for the
single construct of pet bereavement based on the following three distinct factors: “Grief” (items:
2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15), “Anger” (items: 1, 4, 11, 13, 14), and “Guilt” (items 6, 8, 9, 16). The PBQ
has been proven to have good internal reliability (Cronbach’s a = 0.87), good factor structure,
and good construct validity.
The Testoni Death Representation Scale (TDRS) (Testoni, Ancona, & Ronconi, 2015): This is
a 6-item self-report measure that assesses the attitudes of individuals toward the ontological
representation of death as a passage to an afterlife or as annihilation. It has good internal
Testoni et al.
139 Anthrozoös
Table 1. Characteristics of the participants
(n= 159).
Variable n %
Male 48 30.2
Female 111 69.8
Age (years)
Low 17 10.7
Medium–High 142 89.3
Unemployed 44 27.7
Employed 114 71.7
Missing value 1 0.6
Marital Status
Married/cohabitating 82 51.6
Other 77 48.4
Presence of Children
No 86 54.1
Yes 73 45.9
Housing Condition
Alone 44 27.7
With other adults 79 49.7
With adult and children 35 22.0
Missing value 1 0.6
Belief in God
No 64 40.3
Yes 94 59.1
Missing value 1 0.6
Afterlife Opinion
No 50 31.4
Yes, only for people 21 13.2
Yes, even for animals 84 52.8
Missing value 4 2.5
Table 2. Characteristics of the pets (n= 159).
Variable n %
Animal Species
Dog 109 68.6
Cat 39 24.5
Other 11 6.9
Time Since Pet’s Death
Up to two years 55 34.6
More than two years 104 65.4
Pet’s Euthanasia
No 80 50.3
Yes 79 49.7
No 23 14.5
Yes 94 59.1
Not addressed by veterinarian 32 20.1
Missing value 10 6.3
Sufficient Time for Decision Making
by the Veterinarian
No 11 6.9
Yes 92 57.9
Not addressed by veterinarian 32 20.1
Missing value 24 15.1
Use of Funeral Services for Pets or Other Rites
No 104 65.4
Yes 53 33.3
Missing value 2 1.3
Timing Euthanasia (n = 79)
Too soon 5 6.3
Right time 68 86.1
Too late 4 5.1
Missing value 2 2.5
Veterinarian Sensitivity During Euthanasia
(n = 79)
No 4 5.1
Yes 56 70.9
Missing value 1 1.3
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Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia
140 Anthrozoös
consistency (Cronbach’s = 0.86). In our research, we used a 10-item, 7-point Likert-scale
version of the TDRS that measures the ontological representation of death according to three
factors: “Death as Annihilation (becoming absolute nothing)” (items: 2, 8, 10), “Death as a
Passage,” meaning death as transformation into another form of existence in which the memory
of the present life will be kept (items: 1, 4, 6), and “Death as Change” to a new form of exis-
tence without keeping the memories of the present life (items: 3, 5, 7, 9). This 10-item version
is currently in the process of validation. In our sample, this version of the TDRS had good internal
consistency, with Cronbach’s alphas ranging between 0.87 and 0.92 (Table 3).
Beck’s Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) (Italian Version) (Beck et al., 1996; Ghisi, Flebus,
Montano, Sanavio, & Sica, 2006): This is a 21-item scale measuring depression. Respondents
answer questions on a 4-pointscale. The BDI-II includes the “Cognitive-Affective” subscale
(items: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14), which measures emotional-cognitive man-
ifestations of depression such as pessimism, guilt, loss of interest, and self-criticism, and the
“Somatic” subscale (items 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21), which measures somatic manifestations
of depression. The BDI-II has excellent psychometric properties in both clinical and commu-
nity samples. It has good internal consistency, with Cronbach’s alphas ranging between 0.80
and 0.87, and good test-retest reliability (0.76).
The second part of the questionnaire was specific to the animals’ death. Participants were
asked to consider the following issues: decision-making and euthanasia-related issues, their
relationship with the veterinarian (complete information on the pet’s health condition, involve-
ment in decisions, sufficient time to consider euthanasia, the veterinarian’s sensitivity toward
the owner and the pet), and funeral rites.
Data Analysis
The analyses were conducted in two steps. In the first step, the internal reliability of each ques-
tionnaire was verified by calculating the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient and averaging the means
of the LAPS, PBQ, TDRS, and BDI-II scores. Correlations between all dimensions, between
the constructs and the characteristics of the participants, and between the constructs and the
characteristics of the pets were evaluated using Pearson’s correlation coefficient.
In the second step, a path analysis was used to test whether the PBQ mediated the rela-
tionship between the LAPS and the BDI-II or between the TDRS and BDI-II, using the LISREL
Version 8.8 statistical package (Jöreskog & Sörbom, 2004). According to current guidelines
(Schermelleh-Engel et al., 2003), a model shows good fit to the data when the chi-square is
not significant, the root mean square error of approximation(RMSEA) is below 0.05, and the
non-normed fit index (NNFI) and comparative fitindex (CFI) are above 0.97.
All instruments had high internal reliability, with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients between 0.70 and
0.93 (Table 3), except for the LAPS Animal Rights/Welfare factor (0.65) and the PBQ Anger
(0.53) factor, which had low coefficients. Table 3 shows the correlations between the instru-
ments. All LAPS scales were positively correlated with the PBQ factors, particularly with Grief
(r= 0.70, p< 0.001 with People Substituting; r= 0.67, p< 0.001 with Animal Rights/Welfare;
and r= 0.65, p< 0.001 with General Attachment), Guilt (r= 0.27, p< 0.01 with People
Substituting; r= 0.26, p< 0.01 with Animal Rights/Welfare; and r= 0.19, p< 0.05 with General
Attachment), and Anger (r= 0.26, p< 0.01 with People Substituting; r= 0.21, p< 0.01 with
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Testoni et al.
141 Anthrozoös
Table 3. Descriptive statistics and reliability Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for the constructs (in diagonal in bold); correlations among the constructs;
correlation between constructs and participants’ and pets’ characteristics (n= 159).
Variables Range MSD 12 345 6 78 9101112
Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS)
1. General attachment 0–33 24.99 7.32 0.93
2. People substituting 0–21 11.57 5.16 0.76*** 0.82
3. Animal rights/welfare 0–12 7.79 2.86 0.76*** 0.87*** 0.65
Pet Bereavement Questionnaire (PBQ)
4. Grief 0–21 10.74 5.49 0.65*** 0.70*** 0.67*** 0.90
5. Anger 0–15 2.03 2.40 0.18* 0.26** 0.21** 0.40*** 0.53
6. Guilt 0–12 3.54 3.14 0.19* 0.27** 0.26** 0.34*** 0.40*** 0.70
Testoni Death Representation Scale (TDRS)
7. Death as passage –3 to +3 0.24 1.95 0.25** 0.19* 0.20* 0.06 –0.02 0.14 0.90
8. Death as change –3 to +3 –0.25 1.61 –0.01 0.02 0.06 –0.14 –0.05 0.10 0.40*** 0.87
9. Death as annihilation –3 to +3 –1.17 1.87 –0.16* –0.08 –0.17* 0.00 0.10 –0.04 –0.73*** –0.30*** 0.92
Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II)
10. Cognitive affective score 0–42 4.37 4.57 0.09 0.17* 0.14 0.29*** 0.19* 0.25** –0.15 –0.06 0.21** 0.83
11. Somatic symptom score 0–21 3.85 3.30 0.11 0.12 0.10 0.24** 0.09 0.07 –0.12 –0.06 0.09 0.69*** 0.79
12. Total score 0–63 8.22 7.23 0.11 0.16* 0.13 0.29*** 0.16* 0.19* –0.15 –0.06 0.17* 0.94*** 0.89*** 0.88
Participants’ Characteristics
13. Gender (0 = Male, 1 = Female) 0.17* 0.22* 0.16* 0.30*** 0.17* 0.11 0.16 0.06 –0.10 0.28*** 0.23** 0.28***
14. Age (years) 0.20* 0.11 0.12 0.29*** –0.11 –0.15 –0.07 –0.14 0.07 0.13 0.19* 0.17*
15. Belief in God (0 = No, 1 = Yes) 0.04 0.11 0.13 0.12 –0.01 0.16* 0.34*** 0.21** –0.26** 0.01 –0.06 –0.02
16. Afterlife opinion (0 = Other,
1 = Even for animals) 0.46*** 0.35*** 0.42*** 0.24** 0.01 0.08 0.67*** 0.28*** –0.58*** –0.12 –0.13 –0.14
Pets’ Characteristics
17. Unexpected pet’s death (0 = No, 1 = Yes) –0.14 –0.14 –0.17* –d0.03 0.24** 0.16* –0.07 –0.06 –0.03 –0.03 0.02 –0.01
18. Pet’s euthanasia (0 = No, 1 = Yes) 0.35*** 0.31*** 0.28** 0.25** –0.08 –0.08 0.11 0.02 –0.04 0.02 0.03 0.03
19. Positive relationship with veterinarian
(0 = No, 1 = Yes) 0.11 0.08 0.12 0.04 –0.28** -0.32** –0.13 –0.04 0.11 0.14 0.20* 0.18
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
*p< 0.05; **p< 0.01; ***p< 0.001.
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Animal Rights/Welfare; and r= 0.18, p< 0.05 with General Attachment). The TDRS Death as
a Passage factor was positively correlated with the LAPS factors (r= 0.25, p< 0.01 with General
Attachment; r= 0.20, p< 0.05 with Animal Rights/Welfare; and r= 0.19, p< 0.05 with People
Substituting). In contrast, the TDRS Death as Annihilation factor was negatively correlated with
the LAPS factors (r= –0.17, p< 0.05 with Animal Rights/Welfare and r= –0.16 with General
Attachment). The LAPS People Substituting factor was positively correlated with the BDI-II total
score (r= 0.16, p< 0.05) and with the Cognitive-Affective factor (r= 0.17, p< 0.05).
All PBQ factors were positively correlated with the BDI-II total score (r= 0.29, p< 0.001
with Grief; r= 0.19, p< 0.05 with Guilt; and r= 0.16, p< 0.05 with Anger) and with the
Cognitive-Affective factor (r= 0.29, p< 0.001 with Grief; r= 0.25, p< 0.01 with Guilt; and
r= 0.19, p< 0.05 with Anger), whereas only Grief was positively correlated with the Somatic
factor (r= 0.24, p< 0.01). Only the TDRS Death as Annihilation factor was positively corre-
lated with the BDI-II total score (r= 0.17, p< 0.05) and with the Cognitive-Affective factor
(r= 0.21, p< 0.01).
Table 3 also shows the correlations between the instruments and the participants’ char-
acteristics. Gender was significantly associated with all measures except the TDRS. Female
gender was associated with higher scores on all the LAPS factors (r= 0.22, p< 0.05 with
People Substituting; r= 0.17, p< 0.05 with General Attachment; and r= 0.16, p< 0.05 with
Animal Rights/Welfare), the PBQ factors of Grief (r= 0.30, p< 0.001) and Anger (r= 0.17,
p< 0.05), the BDI-II total score (r= 0.28, p< 0.001), and both the Cognitive-Affective
(r= 0.28, p< 0.001) and Somatic (r= 0.23, p< 0.01) BDI-II factors. Age was positively
correlated with the LAPS General Attachment factor (r = 0.20, p < 0.05), the PBQ Grief
factor (r= 0.29, p< 0.001), the BDI-II total score (r= 0.17, p< 0.05), and the BDI-II Somatic
factor (r= 0.19, p< 0.05).
With respect to the representations of a transcendent dimension, belief in God was asso-
ciated with higher scores on the PBQ Guilt factor (r= 0.16, p< 0.05) and on the TDRS fac-
tors of Death as a Passage (r= 0.34, p< 0.001) and Death as Change (r= 0.21, p< 0.01),
whereas it was associated with lower scores on the TDRS factor Death as Annihilation (r= –
0.26, p< 0.01). Furthermore, belief in an afterlife for people and animals was associated with
higher scores on all the LAPS factors (r= 0.46, p< 0.001 with General Attachment; r= 0.42,
p< 0.001 with Animal Rights/Welfare, and r= 0.35, p< 0.001 with People Substituting), the
PBQ Grief factor (r= 0.24, p< 0.01), and the TDRS factors of Death as Passage (r= 0.67, p
< 0.001) and Death as Change (r= 0.28, p< 0.001), whereas it was associated with lower
scores on the TDRS factor Death as Annihilation (r= –0.58, p< 0.001).
The unexpected death of a pet was associated with higher scores on the Anger (r= 0.24,
p< 0.01) and Guilt (r= 0.16, p< 0.05) factors of the PBQ. The pet’s euthanasia was asso-
ciated with higher scores on all LAPS factors (r= 0.35, p< 0.001 with General Attachment;
r= 0.31, p< 0.001 with People Substituting; and r= 0.28, p< 0.01 with Animal
Rights/Welfare) and the PBQ Grief factor (r= 0.25, p< 0.01). A positive relationship with the
veterinarian was negatively associated with the Guilt (r= –0.32, p< 0.01) and Anger
(r= –0.28, p< 0.01) factors of the PBQ, whereas it was positively associated with the Somatic
factor of the BDI-II (r= 0.20, p< 0.05).
In the second phase of the analysis (the path analysis), we considered all the variables that
were significant in the analysis conducted in the first step: the LAPS People Substituting fac-
tor and the TDRS Death as Annihilation factors as predictors of the BDI-II total score, with the
Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia
142 Anthrozoös
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Testoni et al.
143 Anthrozoös
Figure 1. Parameter estimates of the tested model. The numbers refer to the standardized
PBQ factor of Grief as a mediator. The initial model was saturated, with all direct and indirect
effects as predictors of the dependent variable. In the final model, only the significant param-
eters were included (Figure 1). For the final model, the fit indices showed good model fit to the
data: 2= 0.68, df = 2, p= 0.710, RMSEA = 0.00, CFI = 1.00, NNFI = 1.04. The final model
supports the total mediation effects of the PBQ Grief factor. There were no direct effects of
either the LAPS People Substituting factor or the TDRS Death as Annihilation factor; however,
there were indirect effects through the PBQ Grief factor.
Therefore, the results confirm our hypothesis that representations of death and pet attachment
may cause depression in response to the grief experienced after the death of a pet. In fact, the
representation of Death as Annihilation and the People Substituting factor of attachment have a
strong influence on grief following the loss of a pet, which has an impact on depression.
Terror Management Theory (TMT) suggests that religion is a buffer against the awareness of
death (Greenberg et al., 1992). The need to avoid the salience of mortality is pervasive and
takes multiple forms. One specific effect of this need is the occultation of corporality and ani-
malism (Goldenberg, Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 2000). People go to great lengths
to deny and distance themselves from their own animal nature or “creatureliness” (Goldenberg
et al., 2001) because it reminds them of their own mortality. This fundamental attitude may
result in people distancing themselves from animals. On the contrary, some cultures are
notorious for their anthropomorphic religions and worldviews (Spencer, 1952; Asquith,
1986), which include the perspective that the animal dimension participates in the same
transcendental and universal consciousness as the human dimension.
This perspective does not maintain the belief that animals are merely biological material
(objectification) and has been supported by Queer animal theory and ecological perspectives,
which promote the cultural awarding of dignity to animals (see Giffney & Hird, 2008). The cen-
tral assumption of these perspectives is that animals deserve to be respected in the same
way as human beings. Anthropomorphism may be considered a particular expression of this
idea because it involves recognizing humanlike characteristics, particularly the emotional states
perceived to be uniquely human (Leyens et al., 2003), in animals and nonhuman agents. Thus,
we can affirm that there are two specific forms of religious buffers against the salience of mor-
tality that is involved in relationships with animals: on one hand, the negation of any similarity
between humans and animals; on the other hand, the humanization of animals that grants
them human characteristics and an afterlife.
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This point of view belongs to one of the interaction forms described by Fiske (2004) in his
Relational Models Theory 2.0 (RMT-2.0). The first two configurations of the four elementary
forms of relationships are useful in studies on grief (Davis 2011) and the representation of death
in relation to pet loss: “Communal Sharing” (CS), in which people treat others as equals, and
“Authority Ranking” [AR], which is characterized by asymmetric positions and defined by a
linear hierarchy. As Fiske (2004) indicates, CS is an “imagined community” that implies an-
thropomorphism because people may be motivated by their understanding of what they have
in common with beings that are not only or not necessarily human, such as deceased persons,
ancestors, spirits, gods, domestic animals, or other social beings. However, even though this
symbolic space permeates everyday life through comics and cartoons, Western thought
belittles these feelings as infantile attitudes and specifically suggests that animals should be
considered mere instruments for humans. On this basis, the AR perspective derives and
produces an ideological discrimination between humans and animals that denies any kind of
communality and erects barriers to separate, different hierarchical levels of beings.
However, as Fiske (2004) emphasizes, CS and AR may intersect, and it is possible to rec-
ognize further differentiations in the area of CS. Blouin (2013) specifically defines the difference
between the Humanistic Orientation (HO) and the Protectionist Orientation (PO). The HO is
primarily characterized by an intense emotional attachment, and relationships with animals
respect “anthropocentric values” and orientations toward nature that reflect human goals. On
the contrary, the PO, which is typified by the strongest bond with pets, is closer to an ecological
perspective, which involves a high level of concern about animals’ conditions and respect for
their natural needs.
The opposite of the PO is the Dominionistic Orientation (DO), which may be inscribed in the
area of the AR. The hypothesis of our study was that the absence of a representation of an af-
terlife might affect pet owners’ grief. With regard to the psychological effects that result from the
representation of an animal afterlife (humanization), this research produced interesting results
concerning possible depressive outcomes among pet owners in response to pet loss. Despite
the low internal reliability of the LAPS factor, which reduces the consistency of the general re-
sults, it is possible to confirm the hypothesized model and show that some factors significantly
affect owners’ grief, which in turn mediates the effect of these factors on depression.
These dimensions are the ontological representation of Death as Annihilation and consid-
ering the pet a substitute attachment figure, which are risk factors for extreme grief responses.
In our survey, the representation of Death as Annihilation produced both psychosomatic and
cognitive depressive aspects, whereas the correlational analysis and the previous literature
suggest that the representation of Death as a Passage results in the opposite effects (Ronconi,
Testoni, & Zamperini, 2009; Zamperini, Paoloni, & Testoni, 2015).
To the extent that the substitutive attachment function anthropomorphizes animals
(Cromer & Barlow, 2013), the representation of death as absolute annihilation may cause se-
vere grief similar to the loss of a beloved person. Likewise, the correlation analysis produced
results that are in line with the literature; specifically, people whose pets are substitute
attachment figures may be at risk for extreme grief responses upon the death of their
companion animal (Zilcha-Mano et al., 2011). From this perspective, the belief in an afterlife
for animals intervenes as a facilitator in the elaboration of pet bereavement (similar to human
bereavement) because, as discussed in the literature (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2010), it is linked
to attachment strategies that are useful in the management of separation-related thoughts
evoked by death experiences.
Pet Loss and Representations of Death, Attachment, Depression, and Euthanasia
144 Anthrozoös
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Our results support the literature that suggests that attitudes toward animal immortality
are becoming increasingly significant (Davis, 2011; Fidler, 2004; Lee & Surething, 2013). In
fact, we found that more than half of the participants believed in an afterlife for animals. Belief
in an afterlife for both humans and animals may be a sign of communal sharing relationships.
Similar to the phenomenon of grief caused by the death of a beloved person, this factor may
help to promote resilience in coping with loss. It is also confirmed that women are more pre-
disposed to suffering from extreme grief and depression than men are (Gosse & Barnes, 1994;
McCutcheon & Fleming, 2001; Planchon & Templer, 1996; Wrobel & Dye, 2003). In contrast
to the literature, however, we found a direct rather than inverse correlation with age. Our results
did not confirm the findings of McCutcheon and Fleming (2001) and Planchon and Templer
(1996), who indicated that older owners are more susceptible to intense grief.
It is possible, however, to emphasize further aspects that typify representations of death
and the relationship between attachment and grief. In particular, with regard to the represen-
tation of death and the belief in an afterlife, we observed that the more time passes, the more
a pet’s death is represented as absolute annihilation. Nevertheless, being religious and believing
in God facilitates the representation of death as a passage or a change, but it is also associ-
ated with feelings of guilt. This discomfort may be interpreted as the effect of the need for
significance for animals’ death and their afterlife in Western traditional religions. Furthermore,
belief in an afterlife for both people and animals was related to a stronger attachment to the
pet and a greater grief response to its death, whereas believing in an afterlife for people only
was associated with lower attachment and grief.
This particular articulation of discomfort in response to pet loss highlights the presence of
a complex scenario that requires further research to explain how attachment and ontological
representations of death are intertwined and how they intervene to help a person cope with
loss. It is important to investigate these issues, particularly in relation to the increasing tendency
to anthropomorphize the human–animal bond and to include animals in the representation of
ethics in the management of the boundaries between life and death. Similar to the human
dying process, which has lost any natural reference, these boundaries are increasingly con-
trolled by veterinary medical procedures. From this perspective, the issue of euthanasia and
its performance should be considered more carefully. In fact, in line with the literature, we found
that euthanasia is associated with greater attachment (McCutcheon & Fleming, 2001) and
greater grief (Pitcairn & Pitcairn-Hubble, 1982; Quackenbush & Glickman, 1983).
The unexpected death of a pet produced greater anger and guilt, whereas the euthanasia
of the pet was associated with greater attachment and grief. Receiving detailed information on
the pet’s health conditions from the veterinarian reduced both anger and guilt, but it did not
prevent the somatization effect of depression. If animals are considered increasingly similar to
humans and worthy of our moral thinking (Midgley, 1994; Serpell, 1996), we can expect a
growing need to seriously consider the importance of euthanasia-related issues, particularly
when strong bonds have formed. Owners who are significantly attached to their pets are likely
to pay particular attention to the health condition of the animal and choose euthanasia to re-
duce the pet’s suffering and pain. However, both the anticipatory and post-death grief asso-
ciated with this choice should be examined further. As is indicated in the literature (Lagoni
et al., 1994; Davis et al., 2003), despite a lack of information on the pet’s health and euthana-
sia, which may increase the owner’s feelings of anger and guilt, our results suggest that when
this information is not managed at the symbolic level, it may be repressed and unconsciously
produce depressive outcomes. Therefore, mental health practitioners can provide a valued
Testoni et al.
145 Anthrozoös
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link between veterinarians and pet owners (Lagoni, 2011) by offering psychological support for
the symbolic elaboration of the mourning process linked to euthanasia.
Among the limitations of the research, the low internal reliabilities of the LAPS Animal
Rights/Welfare factor and the PBQ Anger factor indicates that the use of these dimensions
should be viewed with caution and that the interpretations of their relationships should be
considered fundamentally speculative. In addition, their low reliability may negatively impact the
general results of the model. Certainly some interpretive possibilities allow us to suggest that
further research should be conducted to investigate the social constructs of animals among
veterinarians and whether these may latently conflict with the constructs of the owners. Indeed,
we hypothesize that veterinarians may unconsciously communicate to owners an authority-
ranking relationship with animals that involves the objectification of animals as mere biological
material. This approach may facilitate negative outcomes if the same social construct of
animals is not shared by the pet owner.
Finally, our research suggests that although belief in an afterlife is associated with greater
attachment and, therefore, greater grief, this belief does not correlate with depressive
outcomes and acts as a humanization factor for the relationship with the pet and its death.
Therefore, future studies should determine the reliability of the Italian version of these instru-
ments. The utilization of euthanasia as an independent variable limited the investigation of this
factor. Future studies should analyze this dimension using a specific questionnaire.
Furthermore, in future extensions of this research, it will be necessary to balance the num-
ber of males and females. In fact, recent studies (Blazina & Kogan, 2016) show that males cope
with grief, and particularly with pet grief, differently than females do because their conviction
that they should fulfill the requirements of mature masculinity limits their management of the
loss. Overall, the generalizability of the results is limited because the average participant in this
study was middle-aged, female, married, and educated.
We acknowledge the philosopher Emanuele Severino, who discussed with us the issues
inherent in the representations of death, and the Masters in “Death Studies and the End of Life”
(University of Padova), which funded the research.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
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... Indeed, people often develop deep emotional connections with companion animals, and almost all human guardians in Western societies consider them family members [3]. Therefore, recent studies have recognized that human guardians may experience considerable grief over the loss of companion animals [4,5]. ...
... However, despite the frequency and intensity of the grief that people experience due to companion animal loss, this phenomenon lacks proper social recognition, and there is little opportunity for adequate support [11]. As a matter of consequence, the bereavement process usually assumes the form of disenfranchised grief-that is, grief which is not socially acknowledged and becomes a source of additional suffering for the bereaved [5]. Cordaro [12] argued that this disenfranchised grief has three major causes: considering the bereavement over a companion animal unacceptable, believing that the individual can quickly cope with grief and easily replace the lost companion animal, and not considering the mourning experience as authentic. ...
... Since grief due to the loss of a companion animal can be a painful experience, it is of the utmost importance that experts in the psychological and veterinary fields develop targeted psychological instruments to support the bereaved [4,5]. In recent years, there have been increasing calls for veterinarians to provide tools to assess the quality of life (QoL) of elderly or terminally ill companion animals and thereby prevent or ease their suffering. ...
Full-text available
Witnessing a companion animal’s death can be a stressful psychological experience for human guardians, affecting their ability to grieve. The veterinary and psychological sciences offer useful tools for supporting human guardians during their companion animal’s terminal illness. Accordingly, the present study aimed to validate the HHHHMM Quality of Life Scale in the Italian context. The study followed a mixed-methods design and involved 314 participants. The Mourning Dog Questionnaire (MDQ), Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), Pet Bereavement Questionnaire (PBQ), and open-ended questions were adopted to test the research hypotheses and qualitatively explore the grieving experience. The results showed that the model’s fit was partially adequate, with all parameters being significant and over 0.40. Moreover, human guardians’ anger levels were high when their companion animal’s quality of life was poor, and greater levels of grief were associated with higher levels of attachment. Gender differences were observed only with the LAPS, and a negative correlation with age was found with the LAPS and PBQ. A thematic qualitative analysis revealed four themes: continuing bonds, coping strategies, shared moral values, and perceived support. Thus, the research reaffirmed the importance of adequate veterinary and psychological support for human guardians experiencing the loss of companion animals.
... Society does not always recognize the significant loss associated with the death of a pet. This lack of loss recognition can contribute to bereaved owners feeling isolated and ashamed when dealing with the loss of their companion [10]. Peseschkian [11] stressed that social and religious norms regarding grieving behaviour can encourage or inhibit the grieving process. ...
... Research reveals the importance of a number of variables in managing pet loss, notably the sensitivity of the veterinarian, having a veterinarian who helps owners make informed and conscious decisions about their pet, and choosing the right time to perform euthanasia. However, these factors may prove insufficient [10], in which case it is important that veterinarians are prepared to offer psychological first aid, and to guide owners towards psychologically appropriate professional help where required. ...
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The loss or death of a beloved pet creates a grief reaction comparable to that of the loss of a family member and may lead to the development of symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of persistent complicated grief disorder. Nevertheless, society does not always recognize it as a significant loss, which may contribute to bereaved owners feeling isolated and ashamed when coping with it, as well as not resorting to mental health professionals when necessary. The development of instruments to assess these reactions may contribute to improving the understanding of this suffering. This study aimed to adapt the Pet Bereavement Questionnaire for European Portuguese speakers. A non-probabilistic convenience sample of 169 adults who had a pet that died answered a battery of questionnaires, which included the Portuguese version of the Pet Bereavement Questionnaire. This version resulted from a consensus translation prepared by two translators and subsequently subjected to a cognitive debriefing. The Portuguese version of the instrument demonstrated good reliability (good internal consistency for the total questionnaire and for its subscales) and good external validity (negative correlation with well-being measures and positive correlation with psychopathology measures), as well as reasonable internal validity and sensitivity.
... Although caregivers are fortunate in being able to make EoL decisions to end the suffering of an elderly or diseased pet, which they typically cannot do for human companions (Leary et al., 2020;Sanders, 1995), there is no guidebook for the optimal moment to make such decisions. Although researchers have actively explored the topic of grief following euthanasia (e.g., Adrian & Stitt, 2019;Lagoni, 2011;Littlewood et al., 2020;McCutcheon & Fleming, 2002;Testoni et al, 2017;Thomas, 1982;Tzivian et al., 2014), and some studies have explored how veterinarians make euthanasia decisions (e.g., Sanders, 1995;Shaw & Lagoni, 2007), there is very little research regarding what factors influence pet owners' decisions regarding euthanasia. What sparse research does exist typically adopts a qualitative approach to identify environmental factors and attitudes underlying decisions to euthanize (Bussolari et al., 2018;Littlewood et al., 2021aLittlewood et al., , 2021bNiessen et al. 2017;Tzivian et al., 2014). ...
... Sampling individuals with a diversity of religious beliefs would also be important given how ideas about an afterlife and whether animals have minds and souls likely influence EoL decisions as well (Sanders, 1995;Testoni et al., 2017). However, previous research indicated that religious beliefs did not predict distress following euthanasia or the determination of euthanasia as appropriate (Davis et al., 2003). ...
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Little is known about how pet owners make end-of-life (EoL) decisions regarding their pets. We analyzed data from 1542 pet owners from North America and Europe that had made EoL decisions involving their dogs (n = 546) or cats (n=996). We measured participants’ empathy towards animals, emotion regulation, and attitudes toward pets, and asked for demographic information about themselves and the most recent pet that they had euthanized. We asked them to indicate a preference for making a decision too early versus too late, the stage of an illness or injury at which they had made their decision to euthanize, and the amount of guilt they felt for making a decision too early and too late. We hypothesized that individuals with high levels of empathy would prioritize the reduction of their pet’s suffering and would therefore make earlier decisions and feel greater guilt for having made decisions too late. This might be especially true for those with low emotion regulation as they might have more difficulty managing their own distress related to the pet’s condition. In addition, we recognized that pet owners would also consider their desire to extend the pet’s life - particularly when they had strong positive attitudes toward pets. Contrary to our predictions, those with higher reported empathy for animals were more likely to make decisions to euthanize at later stages compared to earlier stages. Cat owners made decisions later compared to dog owners. Higher levels of empathy and lower levels of emotion regulation predicted guilt for both early and late decisions. Further work is needed to explore how various owner characteristics impact EoL decisions. Our study makes a first attempt to understand this complex issue.
... For example, the dimensions of anthropomorphism and utilitarianism were identified by Boya et al. (4) and Dotson and Hyatt (10). A study conducted by Testoni et al. (24) emphasizes the humanization of companion animals, also in terms of burial and mourning. Clemente-Ricolfe and González-Navarro (7) describe the strength of the human-animal bond and show that the feeling of loss does not differ from the grief experienced after a loss of a loved person. ...
... In many studies, other authors exhibit a tendency to focus on females and their bonds and the feeling of grief after the loss of their pets. Testoni et al. (24) observed that females showed much more pronounced signs of despair than males. However, this does not imply that males are not affected by the loss of their companion animals. ...
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The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between humans and animals and to analyze the opinions expressed by pet owners about cremation and burial of their dead pets. The survey-based study was carried out among 876 respondents, and data on the number of cremations performed in 2016-2021 obtained from an animal crematorium were analyzed. The statistical analysis assessed the correlations between the responses and the sex, education, and place of residence of the respondents. The responses were analyzed using the Pearson Chi-square test. The percentage data collected from the crematorium included the number of collective and individual cremations with their mutual percentage ratio in a year and the number of purchased memorabilia of the deceased pet over the five subsequent years. The statistical analysis was performed in the Statistica 13.3 program. The research results allow for the formulation of a conclusion about the constantly growing empathy for the four-legged members of families.
... Indeed, in one study alone, the authors included owners of dogs, cats, birds, horses, fish, reptiles, rabbits, rodents, and livestock animals [10]. The LAPS has been validated in the original English [9] and translated into other languages (e.g., German [11], Spanish [12], Italian [13]) but the scale focuses exclusively on the affective aspects of the pet-owner relationship. This was intentional [9], as it helped reduce the dog bias inherent in previous scales which asked questions about certain types of pet-owner interactions (e.g., 'I take my pet along when I go jogging or walking' on the Pet Relationship Scale [14]). ...
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Globally, most people now own a pet. Scales have been developed to understand the impact of pet ownership on people’s lives and to measure specific aspects of the owner–pet relationship. The Cat-/Dog-Owner Relationship Scale (C/DORS) is a tool developed to investigate this relationship in both dog and cat owners. The aim of the study was to refine and validate the C/DORS for cat owners in Italian. Exploratory Factor Analysis and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) were used to determine the most appropriate factor model. Construct validity was confirmed by correlating the C/DORS subscales with the Lexington Attachment to Pets (LAPS) subscales. Results confirmed the original structure of the English version (i.e., three factors: Pet Owner Interaction = POI, Perceived Emotional Closeness = PEC, Perceived Costs = PC) and CFA confirmed the structure of LAPS and C/DORS scales. Cronbach’s alpha demonstrated the Italian version of the two scales to have good internal reliability for all domains. Owners of cats living exclusively indoors reported higher scores on POI and PEC compared to indoor/outdoor cats. Owning both cats and dogs was correlated with lower scores on POI, and fewer perceived costs (i.e., PC) of cat ownership. Finally, behaviour problems, not being neutered, and lack of previous experience with cat ownership were associated with lower scores on PC.
... In contrast, Emptiness and Meaninglessness positively correlated with spiritual crisis and negatively correlated with the integration of loss. Finally, spiritual crisis was inversely correlated with the ability to integrate the loss experience, and, similarly to previous studies, the representation of death as an absolute annihilation was positively correlated with spiritual crisis [45]. ...
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Background: Bereavement is an inevitable event that can cause pain, discomfort, and negative consequences in daily life. Spirituality and religiosity can help people cope with loss and bereavement. Sometimes, however, the death of a loved one can challenge core religious beliefs and faith, which has been found to be a risk factor for prolonged mourning. Objectives: (1) Determine whether the Italian versions of the Integration of Stressful Life Experiences Scale (ISLES) and Inventory of Complicated Spiritual Grief (ICSG) are valid in translation; (2) Evaluate the impact of socio-demographic variables on ISLES and ICSG dimensions; (3) Test whether Complicated Spiritual Grief mediates the relation between meaning reconstruction after loss and integration of the loss experience; (4) Test whether the representation of death as a form of passage or annihilation further moderated the relation between Complicated Spiritual Grief and integration of the loss. Methods: The sample is composed of 348 participants who had lost a loved person in the prior two years. Results: The ISLES and ICSG were validated in Italian and are more appropriately interpreted as having a unifactorial structure. A greater spiritual crisis was manifested in participants with less education, who did not actively participate in religious life, and who had lost a friend rather than a close relative. As hypothesised, spiritual struggle in grief mediated the role of continuing bonds, Emptiness and Meaninglessness, and Sense of Peace in predicting integration of the loss. Furthermore, death representation moderated the impact of spiritual grief on loss, such that those participants who viewed death as a form of annihilation rather than passage reported greater integration of the loss. Conclusion: The role of meaning making in integrating significant loss is partly accounted for by spiritual struggle in a way that can be analysed in Italian contexts through the use of these newly validated instruments.
Elderlies are facing with problems not only limited to chronic diseases and functional disabilities, but also loneliness and feeling of isolation, and even rejection. For some older adults, especially those who have disabilities, their spouse and children are unable to take care of them. They may have to live in residential care homes for the elderly for the rest of their lives. This makes the elderly very unhappy and becoming more and more pessimistic. They may treat themselves as a burden to the family and society as they continue to age and degenerate. Pet ownership is known to help in promoting health and increasing the quality of life of older adults by calming the elderly, combating loneliness, providing companionship and unconditional love, encouraging mobility, providing a sense of purpose and making the elderly hosts feel safe. This review will discuss the physical and psychosocial benefits, as well as the potential harms and dangers of owning pets. Owning a pet is not only costly, but there is increased risk of fall injuries, risk of developing allergies and asthma, and risk of acquiring zoonotic diseases. Furthermore, losing a pet may cause huge emotional and psychological burden to the elderly. Collaborating service animals with community elderly services increases the physical and psychosocial health as well as the dignity of the older adults and their families.
When a pet dies, owners can experience similar levels of grief as when a human dies. Previous research indicates the role of continuing bonds (CB) when a pet is alive. To understand the impact of these bonds after the pet has died, we conducted a systematic narrative synthesis according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines (PRISMA). Findings were heterogenous, yet there were still parallels in the literature. CB can sometimes aggravate and intensify grief experiences, particularly when pet grief is perceived as disenfranchised grief. However, identifying appropriate bonds can be useful to moderate the intensity of grief and be a valuable mechanism of support. CB can also help post-traumatic growth of owners.
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Behavioural reactions towards a dead conspecific have been observed rarely in wild canids and there is no documented scientific evidence of grief in pet dogs. A quantitative analysis of grief-related responses in both dogs and owners was conducted, using the validated online Mourning Dog Questionnaire. The survey was completed by 426 Italian adults who had owned at least two dogs, one of whom died while the other was still alive. This research aims to explore whether, how and what a dog may experience over the loss of a companion dog. Multiple logistic regression indicates that both a friendly or parental relationship between two dogs but also the fact that dogs used to share food and the owner’s grief and anger are principal predictors of negative behavioural changes. According to dog owners’ answers, the surviving dog after the death of the companion dog changed both in terms of activities (“playing”, “sleeping”, and “eating”) and emotions (fearfulness), which occurred as a function of the quality of the relationship between the two animals. By contrast, the time the two dogs had spent together had no effect on the behaviours of surviving dog. Owner perceptions about their dog’s reactions and emotions were not related to the memory or suffering of the event that tended to diminish over time. These findings indicate that a dog may show grief-related behavioural and emotional patterns when a close conspecific dies, with aspects of the latter possibly related to the owner’s emotional status.
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This article considers the relationship between dehumanization, ontological representation of death, trust in physicians, and burden of care on the part of caregivers of terminally ill patients. One hundred informal caregivers (relatives and friends) of patients hospitalized in four hospice facilities in northern Italy were involved. Of these, 77% were primary caregivers (those who mostly helped the patient). All of the participants were given a questionnaire comprising the Caregiver Burden Inventory (CBI) to determine caregivers' burden in their roles, the *questionario post mortem (QPM)* (post mortem questionnaire) for the effectiveness of and their trust in the medical nursing team of palliative care services, the Testoni death representation scale (TDRS) to detect their ontological representations of death and the humanity attribution test (HAT) to investigate their attributions of humanity to terminally ill patients. Per the literature, the present results demonstrated higher burden levels for female caregivers and primary caregivers. In informal caregiving, the dehumanization of patients does not have any advantage in reducing the burden of care. Further studies are required to compare formal and informal caregivers concerning the effect of dehumanization.
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The healing power of the bond between men and dogs is explored in this unique book. Three important themes emerge: attachment, loss, and continued bonds with canine companions for males across the life span and from various contextual backgrounds. The contributors replace common assumptions with needed context pertaining to men’s emotions and relationships, starting with the impact of gender norms on attachment, and including robust data on how canine companionship may counter Western culture socialization. The chapters engage readers with details pertaining to ways in which dogs help men develop stable, caring relationships, process feelings, and cope with stress – within a variety of environments including home, school and treatment programs for veterans, prisoners, and youth. The book also address men’s loss of companion animals, and the need for building new ways of sustaining the memory and meaning of the bond in males’ lives, referred to as a “continuing bond.” From these various vantage points, therapeutic insights and relevant findings bring a new depth of understanding to this compelling topic. Included in the coverage: Masculine gender role conflict theory, research, and practice: implications for understanding the human-animal bond in males’ lives. At-risk youth and at-risk dogs helping one another. An examination of human-animal interaction as an outlet for healthy masculinity in prison. Exploring how the human-animal bond affects men’s relational capacity to make and sustain meaningful attachment bonds with both human and animal companions. Older adults and companion animals: physical and psychological benefits of the bond. Continuing the bonds with animal companions: implications for men grieving the loss of a dog. Probing the deeper concepts behind “man’s best friend,” Men and Their Dogs provides a rich clinical understanding of this timeless bond, and should be of special interest to health psychologists, clinical psychologists, academicians, social workers, nurses, counselors, life coaches and dog lovers.
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The validation of the Italian version of Linehan, Goodstein, Nielsen, and Chiles (1983) Reasons For Living Inventory (RFL) is here presented. The sample in this study was made up of 532 participants (26-65 years old), from various Italian regions. Part of the sample also completed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS). The six-factor structure reported by Linehan et al. (1983) was reproduced using confirmatory factor analysis. The goodness-of-fit of the model was evaluated. In order to estimate convergent validity, correlations were calculated among the six factors of the RFL, and the BDI and BHS scales. The correlations with BDI and BHS support the convergent validity of the Italian version of the RFL Inventory.
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Introduction: Despite the suggestion to adopt a balanced approach between detachment and involvement, the nurse-patient relationship is always embedded with emotional conflicts. Aims: To collect data on how nurses manage the emotional support to patients. Method: The study adopted the theoretical perspective of the emotional work. Fifty-three nurses completed a questionnaire investigating everyday "emotional accidents." The data were analyzed considering the strategies employed to address and resolve them. Results: All nurses exert an emotional work to try to outcome the dissonance between subjective emotions and emotional rules required by the professional role. There are three strategies: normalizing, regressive, transformative. Most of the emotional efforts are aimed at showing emotions in accordance with the role, even if they are dissonant with respect to the subjective feelings (surface acting). Conclusions: Nurses rare expected to practice an "emotional neutrality", but their profession continually exposes them to a heavy emotional work that may be at the basis of emotional exhaustion and burnout. Strategies should be adopted to prevent stress and health damages.
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Since the borders between natural life and death have been blurred by technique, in Western societies discussions and practices regarding death have became infinite. The studies in this area include all the most important topics of psychology, sociology, and philosophy. From a psychological point of view, the research has created many instruments for measuring death anxiety, fear, threat, depression, meaning of life, and among them, the profiles on death attitude are innumerable. This research presents the validation of a new attitude scale, which conjoins psychological dimensions and philosophical ones. This scale may be useful because the ontological idea of death has not yet been considered in research. The hypothesis is that it is different to believe that death is absolute annihilation than to be sure that it is a passage or a transformation of one’s personal identity. The hypothetical difference results in a greater inner suffering caused by the former idea. In order to measure this possibility, we analyzed the correlation between Testoni Death Representation Scale and Beck Hopelessness Scale, Suicide Resilience Inventory-25, and Reasons for Living Inventory. The results confirm the hypothesis, showing that the representation of death as total annihilation is positively correlated to hopelessness and negatively correlated to resilience.
From the time I (Chris Blazina) began my career as a psychologist, I knew it would be difficult to reach the men I sought to help. As a general rule, males in North America have very negative attitudes about seeking support. I might even go so far as to say the same men struggle with a “crisis of connection,” which equates to a number of challenges, such as the difficulty in making and sustaining connections with others. It also involves mistaking self-reliance for total self-sufficiency and pressure to keep vulnerability firmly in check. A significant percentage of American men endorse some form of these traditional male norms or at least have familiarity with them. One troubling aspect of this prevalence is many men believe they are just fulfilling the requirements of mature masculinity.
What might it mean to queer the Human? By extension, how is the Human employed within queer theory? Featuring essays by international pioneering scholars in queer theory, critical theory, cultural studies and science studies, this volume reconsiders the way we think about queer theory, the category of the Human and the act of queering itself.
This paper examines the variations in dog owners' attitudes toward, treatment of, and interactions with, animals. Based on 28 in-depth interviews with dog owners from a county in the Midwestern United States, I demonstrate that pets are an important part of many people's lives, often providing companionship, entertainment, and meaningful interactions; however, there are notable, distinct variations in how people relate to them. Pet owners typically exhibit one of three orientations toward pets: “dominionistic,” “humanistic,” or “protectionistic.” The dominionistic have relatively low regard for their pets, valuing them primarily for the uses they provide, such as protection. Those employing the humanistic orientation elevate their pets to the status of surrogate humans and value their pets primarily for the affective benefits they enjoy from their close attachments. The protectionistic have high regard for both pets and animals more generally. They view pets as valuable companions and as creatures with their own interests. This typology offers insights for understanding the source and variety of the often ambiguous and contradictory relations between people and pets. I argue that individual characteristics and experiences impact how people understand and relate to animals, in large part, because they represent exposure to different cultural messages. I suggest that these orientations represent three sets of distinct cultural logics, each with distinct histories and contemporary sources.
The psychological and emotional roles played by pets in the urban household are examined. Telephone interviews were conducted with 320 pet owners and 116 nonowners in Providence, Rhode Island. Respondents were obtained from a systematic random sample of the telephone directory. Sociodemographic differences exist between pet owners and those who do not have pets. Remarried people, families with children present, and families in the "middle" stages of the life cycle are most likely to have pets, whereas pet ownership is low among widows, empty-nesters, families with infants, and those with annual incomes of $8,000 or less. Responses to the survey indicate that pets are viewed as important family members by people who live in the city. However, the roles played by pets are related to the social structure of the household. Attachment to pets is highest among never-married, divorced, widowed and remarried people, childless couples, newlyweds, and empty-nesters. Never-married, divorced, and remarried people, and people without children present, are also most likely to anthropomorphize their pets. Pet attachment and anthropomorphism are also related to type of pet. Both dimensions of pet-human bonds are highest among people who have dogs. The findings of the survey are discussed within the framework of family development theory and changing household composition in the United States.