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The relationship between companion animal ownership and wellbeing has received an increasing amount of scientific attention over the last few decades. Although the general assumption is that individuals benefit from the presence of companion animals (termed the “pet-effect”), recent evidence suggests that the nature of this association is diverse and complex and that many of the studies performed so far are subject to methodological constraints. This study therefore aimed to investigate the pet-effect in the natural setting of pet-owners’ daily life. Using the Experience Sampling Method (a signal contingent ecological assessment technique), 55 dog or cat owners reported for five consecutive days, at ten random time-points each day, in the moment whether a pet was present and to what extent they interacted with it. In addition, at each measurement moment they reported on their current positive and negative affect, using 11 mood-related adjectives derived from the Positive And Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). Multilevel regression analyses showed that negative affect was relatively lower at moments when the companion animal was present (vs. absent) (B = –0.09, p = 0.02, 95%CI = –0.16; –0.02). In addition, the level of interaction with a companion animal was positively associated with positive affect (B = 0.04, p < 0.001, 95%CI = 0.01; 0.07). These results are in line with the pet-effect hypothesis in suggesting that the presence of and interaction with companion animals is associated with aspects of emotional wellbeing. More specifically, the presence of a companion animal may buffer against negative feelings, while interacting with a companion animal may generate positive feelings. This differential effect on positive versus negative affect also shows that the pet-effect is not an unequivocal effect. Different aspects of the human–animal relationship may influence different aspects of wellbeing.
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Anthrozoös
A multidisciplinary journal of the interactions of people and animals
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rfan20
The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience
Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet
Owners
Mayke Janssens , Jannes Eshuis , Sanne Peeters , Johan Lataster , Jennifer
Reijnders , Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers & Nele Jacobs
To cite this article: Mayke Janssens , Jannes Eshuis , Sanne Peeters , Johan Lataster , Jennifer
Reijnders , Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers & Nele Jacobs (2020) The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An
Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners, Anthrozoös, 33:4, 579-588,
DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2020.1771061
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2020.1771061
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Published online: 09 Jul 2020.
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Address for correspondence:
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579 Anthrozoös DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2020.1771061
The Pet-Effect in Daily Life:
An Experience Sampling
Study on Emotional Wellbeing
in Pet Owners
Mayke Janssens*†, Jannes Eshuis*, Sanne Peeters*†,
Johan Lataster*†, Jennifer Reijnders*,
Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers*, and Nele Jacobs*†
*Faculty of Psychology, Open University; Heerlen, Netherlands
Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, School for Mental Health
and Neuroscience, Maastricht University Medical Centre; Maastricht,
Netherlands
ABSTRACT The relationship between companion animal ownership and well-
being has received an increasing amount of scientific attention over the last few
decades. Although the general assumption is that individuals benefit from the
presence of companion animals (termed the “pet-effect”), recent evidence
suggests that the nature of this association is diverse and complex and that
many of the studies performed so far are subject to methodological constraints.
This study therefore aimed to investigate the pet-effect in the natural setting of
pet-owners’ daily life. Using the Experience Sampling Method (a signal contin-
gent ecological assessment technique), 55 dog or cat owners reported for five
consecutive days, at ten random time-points each day, in the moment whether
a pet was present and to what extent they interacted with it. In addition, at each
measurement moment they reported on their current positive and negative
affect, using 11 mood-related adjectives derived from the Positive And Negative
Affect Schedule (PANAS). Multilevel regression analyses showed that negative
affect was relatively lower at moments when the companion animal was present
(vs. absent) (B = –0.09, p = 0.02, 95%CI = –0.16; –0.02). In addition, the level
of interaction with a companion animal was positively associated with positive
affect (B = 0.04, p < 0.001, 95%CI = 0.01; 0.07). These results are in line with
the pet-effect hypothesis in suggesting that the presence of and interaction with
companion animals is associated with aspects of emotional wellbeing. More
specifically, the presence of a companion animal may buffer against negative
feelings, while interacting with a companion animal may generate positive feel-
ings. This differential effect on positive versus negative affect also shows that the
pet-effect is not an unequivocal effect. Different aspects of the human–animal
relationship may influence different aspects of wellbeing.
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The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners
580 Anthrozoös
Keywords: affect, ambulatory assessment, companion animals, ecological momentary
assessment, human–animal interaction
Companion animals are an important part of human life: they are present in over half
of the households in the western world (e.g., United States 65% [American Veterinary
Medical Foundation, 2012], the Netherlands 59% [Rijksoverheid, 2015]). Additionally,
they are often considered to be family members, and owners report deep attachment to them
(Allen, 2003; Herzog, 2011). It is therefore not surprising that the relationship between com-
panion animal ownership and psychological health has received a considerable amount of
attention. Although the general assumption is that individuals benefit from the presence of
companion animals, recent evidence suggests that the nature of this association is diverse
and complex (Amiot & Bastian, 2015; Herzog, 2011; Wells, 2009) and that many of the stud-
ies performed so far are subject to methodological constraints (Gilbey & Tani, 2015; Herzog,
2011; Wells, 2009). In this study we examined if there is a relationship between the presence
of and interaction with a companion animal and emotional wellbeing in the natural setting of
pet-owners’ daily lives, using the experience sampling method.
The Pet-Effect
The notion that owning a companion animal can improve human health has been termed “the
pet-effect” (Allen, 2003). This idea became popular in the early 1980’s when an association was
reported between companion animal ownership and survival rates from myocardial infarction
(Friedmann, Katcher, Lynch, & Thomas, 1980). Since then, much research has been conducted
on the effects that companion animals have on the health of their owners (for reviews, see Amiot,
Bastian, & Martens, 2016; Herzog, 2011; Virtues-Ortega & Buela-Casal, 2006; Wells, 2009).
Today, conflicting evidence exists concerning this pet-effect. When focusing on emotional well-
being, a substantial amount of research suggests a positive effect of companion animals.
Companion animals have, for instance, been reported to alleviate loneliness (Pikhartova, Bowling,
& Victor, 2014) and improve self-esteem (Shoda, Stayton, & Martin, 2011). Also, owning a com-
panion animal has been associated with lower levels of depression (Clark Kline, 2010) and with
higher levels of life satisfaction (Jacobs Bao & Schreer, 2016). There are also, however, studies
calling this positive effect into question, reporting null-findings or even negative effects of com-
panion animal ownership on emotional wellbeing. A longitudinal study by Gilbey, McNicholas, and
Collis (2007), for instance, showed that individuals who had acquired a companion animal were
just as lonely after acquisition as they were before. In a cross-sectional study, pet owners were
more likely than non-owners to suffer from psychological problems like anxiety, insomnia, and
depression (Mullersdorf, Grantstrom, Sahlqvist, & Tillgren, 2010).
Thus, while there is a substantial body of research on the idea that companion animals play
a beneficial role in human lives, there is a lack of conclusive evidence that pet-owners experi-
ence higher levels of emotional wellbeing than people who do not own a companion animal.
These conflicting results have been linked to methodological problems in the existing Human–
Animal Interaction (HAI) research (Herzog, 2011; Wells, 2009), including limited reliability of
self-reports, not controlling for possible confounders, and inadequate control groups.
The Present Study
The present study therefore aimed to investigate the pet-effect in real life using the Experience
Sampling Method (ESM). The ESM is a well-validated momentary self- assessment technique
that provides information on people in their natural settings, gathering ecologically valid data
in real time. It involves repeated (random) sampling of current behaviors and experiences over
AZ 33(4).qxp_Layout 1 6/30/20 4:19 PM Page 580
the course of time while functioning within the natural environment (for more information, see
Shiffman, Stone, & Hufford, 2008; Trull & Ebner-Priemer, 2013). Unlike previous studies on the
pet-effect using retrospective self-reports, individuals are not asked to estimate the amount of
time spent with their pet over the previous week or to what degree a pet generally adds
happiness to their lives. Using the ESM for five consecutive days at ten random time-points
each day, we asked pet owners to reflect on their current experiences and current context,
questioning individuals on their momentary affective states (among others). We also asked
individuals in the moment whether a pet was present, how its presence was appraised, and
to what extent they interacted with it. This allowed us to examine in the moment whether the
presence of or the interaction with a companion animal was associated with increased emo-
tional wellbeing in terms of positive and negative affect, minimizing recall or response bias.
Longitudinal data collection with the ESM made it possible to compare—within pet-own-
ers—moments with and without the presence of a companion animal, thereby preventing
confounding by pre-existing differences between pet-owners and non-owners.
Taken together, the purpose of this study was i) to investigate whether the presence of a
companion animal (dog or cat) is associated with increased emotional wellbeing in terms of
higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect, and ii) whether a higher level
of interaction with a companion animal is associated with higher levels of positive affect and
lower levels of negative affect.
Methods
Participants
The sample consisted of 55 adults from the general population, recruited by graduate stu-
dents of the Open University in the Netherlands. Inclusion criteria were i) age 18+ years at time
of inclusion, ii) living with at least one dog and/or one cat, iii) in possession of or having access
to a smartphone, and iv) sufficient command of the Dutch language to understand instructions
and give informed consent. Participation in the study was voluntary and all participants gave
(digital) informed consent. The study was approved by the research ethics committee of the
Open University (U2016/00165/CBO).
Procedure
Participants were asked to first fill out an online questionnaire asking them about demographic
characteristics and information concerning their companion animal. After that they were
instructed to install a mobile application on their smartphone, the RealLife Exp app (Lifedata LLC,
2015). With this application participants provided Experience Sampling data. For five consec-
utive days, at ten random time points between 7.30 am and 22.30 pm, participants received a
notification to complete a brief questionnaire on their mobile phone. At each notification, par-
ticipants were questioned about the presence of and interaction with their companion animal,
their current affect, the social context, activities, and location. In order to minimize memory dis-
tortion, they were instructed to respond immediately upon the notification and were allowed to
do so within a 15-minute interval. To optimize reliability, after 15 minutes the questionnaire ex-
pired and was no longer available to participants. For the same reason, participants with less
than 17 valid reports (out of 50) were excluded from the analysis (Delespaul, 1995).
Measures
Companion Animal: The presence of a pet and the interaction with it was measured in the
moment. Pet-presence was assessed using the question “at this moment my pet is present”
Janssens et al.
581 Anthrozoös
AZ 33(4).qxp_Layout 1 6/30/20 4:19 PM Page 581
(0 = no, 1 = yes). Pet-interaction was measured conditionally upon the presence of the com-
panion animal (pet presence = 1), using the (follow-up) statement “we are interacting.” This item
was rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1= not at all, 7 = very much).
Momentary Affect States: Momentary affect was assessed in concordance with previous
ESM studies using a positive and negative affect scale. Both scales consisted of several
mood- related adjectives that were derived from the Positive And Negative Affect Schedule
(PANAS, Crawford & Henry, 2004), using items that showed high loadings on negative affect
(NA) and positive affect (PA) latent factors and sufficient within-person variability in previous
ESM studies (e.g., Jacobs et al., 2005; Jacobs et al., 2007; Peeters, Berkhof, Delespaul,
Rottenberg, & Nicolson, 2006; Wichers et al., 2007) and assessing a broad range of affect
across the dimensions of “valance” (positive–negative) and “arousal” (high–low) (Kuppens,
Tuerlinckx, Russel, & Barret, 2013). Items were rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = not at all,
7 = very).
Positive affect was assessed with the mean score on the items “I feel cheerful,” “I feel
satisfied,” “I feel happy,” and “I feel enthusiastic.” All items were scored on a 7-point Likert
scale (1 = not at all, 7 = very).
Negative affect was assessed using the mean score on the items “I feel insecure,” “I feel
lonely,” “I feel anxious,” “ I feel irritated,” “I feel sad,” and “I feel guilty” (Cronbach’s alpha (within)
= 0.73, Cronbach’s alpha (aggregated) = 0.85). All items were scored on a 7-point Likert scale
(1 = not at all, 7 = very).
Statistical Analyses
ESM data have a hierarchical (multilevel) structure: multiple observations (level 1) are nested
within subjects (level 2). To take this multilevel structure into account, multilevel regression
modeling was performed using the lme function in R. First, to test whether the presence of
a companion animal was associated with higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of
negative affect, two models were tested. In model 1, PA was entered into the model as a
dependent variable and pet-presence was entered as an independent variable. In model 2,
NA represented the dependent variable and pet-presence the independent variable. Second,
to test whether the interaction with companion animals was associated with higher levels of
PA and lower levels of NA, two similar models were tested. In these models the dependent
variables were again PA and NA, but the independent variable was now pet-interaction. As
PA and NA have shown to be partly independent (though correlated) constructs, the opposite
affective state was added as a covariate (i.e., controlling for NA in the PA models and vice
versa). This allowed us to assess the relative contribution of pet-presence and pet- interaction
to PA and NA. Age, gender, and the presence of other people (“are you alone” yes/no) were
also considered as possible confounders in all analyses and were included in all models as
covariates. All four models accounted for serial dependency allowing residuals to be corre-
lated over time (satisfying AR(1) model) and allowed for intercepts and slopes to vary randomly
across individuals.
Results
Sample Characteristics
Of the 71 participants who entered the study, 16 were excluded based on (technical prob-
lems leading to) insufficient valid ESM-reports. The final study sample thus consisted of 55
participants (Table 1).
The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners
582 Anthrozoös
AZ 33(4).qxp_Layout 1 6/30/20 4:19 PM Page 582
Association Between the Presence of a Companion Animal and Affect
The reliability of both affect scales was sufficient: Cronbach’s alpha (within) = 0.84; Cronbach’s
alpha (aggregated) = 0.88 for momentary PA and Cronbach’s alpha (within) = 0.73; Cronbach’s alpha
(aggregated) = 0.85 for momentary NA.
The results of the multilevel regression analysis revealed a significant association between
the presence of a companion animal and NA (B = –0.09, p = 0.02, 95%CI = –0.16; –0.02).
No significant association was found between the presence of a companion animal and PA
(B = 0.07, p = 0.20 95%CI = –0.04; 0.17).
Association Between the Interaction with a Companion Animal and Affect
Multilevel random regression analyses indicated an association between the interaction level with
a companion animal and PA. Higher levels of interaction with a companion animal were associated
with higher levels of PA (B = 0.04, p < 0.001, 95%CI = 0.02; 0.07). No significant association was
found between pet-interaction and NA (B = 0.01, p = 0.31, 95%CI = –0.02; 0.01).
Janssens et al.
583 Anthrozoös
Table 1. Sample characteristics.
Female Male
n55 34 21
Mean Age (SD, range) 46.5 (11.7, 21–71) 43.6 51.2
Education (%)
Primaryeducation 3.6 2.9 4.8
Secondary education 18.2 8.8 33.3
Vocational education 16.4 8.8 28.6
Bachelor’s level 40.0 52.9 19.0
Master’s level 21.8 26.5 14.3
Marital Status (%)
Single 12.7 11.7 14.3
In a relationship 5.5 8.8 0.0
Married/living together 70.9 67.6 76.2
Divorced 9.1 11.7 9.5
Widowed 1.8 2.9 0.0
Occupational Status (%)
Unemployed 18.6 15.2 25.0
School/education 9.3 15.2 0.0
Part-time employed 37.0 36.4 35.0
Full-time employed 33.3 30.3 40.0
Companion Animals (%)
Dog 54.5 55.9 52.4
Cat 29.1 29.4 28.6
Both 16.4 14.7 19.0
Responsible for Companion Animal (%)
Sole responsibility 38.2 42.4 33.3
Shared responsibility 61.8 57.6 66.7
Mean Number of Notifications (SD, range) 30.9 (9.3, 17–46) 31.6 29.8
Score on ESM Measures
% of notifications in presence of companion animal 65.7 71.0 56.7
Mean activity level when interacting
with companion animal (SD) 3.4 (2.2) 3.4 3.4
Mean PA (SD) 4.7 (1.2) 4.7 4.8
Mean NA (SD) 1.6 (0.8) 1.6 1.5
AZ 33(4).qxp_Layout 1 6/30/20 4:19 PM Page 583
Association Between Active or Passive Presence
of a Companion Animal and Affect
To investigate the hypothesis that the differential effect on PA versus NA is related to the differ-
ence between passive and active presence of a companion animal, we performed additional
post-hoc analyses. We divided the pet-presence variable into two separate dichotomous vari-
ables based on the specific type of activity reported: passive presence (0 = absent, 1 = passively
present) and active presence (0 = absent, 1 = actively present). This distinction was made based
on the specific activity with the companion animal reported by the owner. Passive presence
entails only the moments in which the companion animal was present but no interaction took
place (individuals indicated that the companion animal was present but they were “doing noth-
ing”), active presence entails only the moments in which the companion animal was present and
individuals reported to be in an activity (e.g., “walking,” “playing,” “cuddling,” “seeking com-
fort”). Similar to the analyses for the (global) pet-presence predictor, two sets of multilevel
The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners
584 Anthrozoös
Figure 1. The association between active/passive presence (versus absence) and Positive
Affect. *Significant at the 0.05 level.
Figure 2. The association between active/passive presence (versus absence) and Negative
Affect. *Significant at the 0.05 level.
*
4.8
4.75
4.7
4.65
4.6
4.55
Passive Presence
versus Absence
Active Presence
versus Absence
01
Positive Affect
Presence of Companion Animal
*
*
1.65
1.6
1.55
1.5
1.45
1.4
Passive Presence
versus Absence
Active Presence
versus Absence
01
Negative Affect
Presence of Companion Animal
AZ 33(4).qxp_Layout 1 6/30/20 4:19 PM Page 584
regression analyses were performed testing the association i) between passive presence and
PA/NA, and ii) between active presence and PA/NA, again correcting for age, gender, and the
presence of other people. The results show that the passive presence of a companion animal
was associated with less negative affect (B = –0.12, p = 0.017, 95%CI = –0.22;–0.02) but not
more positive affect (see Figures 1 and 2). The active presence was associated with higher lev-
els of PA (B = 0.11, p = 0.041, 95%CI = 0.01; 0.22) as well as lower levels of NA (B = –0.08,
p = 0.038, 95%C I = –0.16; –0.00) (see Figures 1 and 2).
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine the pet-effect in the daily lives of companion animal
owners. In order to investigate the association between companion animals and emotional
wellbeing in daily life, the presence and interaction with companion animals was associated
with momentary positive and negative affect, using the ESM. The results show that individuals
experience less negative affect when in the presence of their companion animal. Additionally, a
higher level of interaction with their companion animal was associated with higher levels of PA.
These results not only suggest that the presence of a companion animal may buffer against neg-
ative feelings, but also that there may be an additive effect of the interaction with a companion
animal on positive affect.
The overall conclusions from these results are indicative of a pet-effect in daily life and are
in line with our hypotheses. However, the discrepancy between the presence and the inter-
action with a companion animal is striking. Whilst the presence of a companion animal is
associated with lower levels of NA, the interaction with a companion animal is associated with
higher levels of PA. This could be indicative of a differential effect of “passive” presence of the
companion animal (the companion animal merely being present) versus “active” presence of
the companion animal (the owner is interacting with the companion animal).
Active Versus Passive Presence of the Companion Animal
Although there seems to be a differential effect of passive presence versus active presence, in
the variables used to test the original hypotheses it is not entirely clear how the passive and
active presence of a companion animal relate to each other. On the one hand, the pet-presence
variable enables the comparison between absence and presence of a companion animal but
does not differentiate between passive presence and active presence (interaction). On the other
hand, the pet-interaction variable does differentiate between passive presence (a low score on
pet-interaction) and active presence (a high score on pet-interaction) but does not allow for a
comparison with the absence of a companion animal. To investigate the hypothesis that the
differential effect on PA versus NA is related to the difference between passive and active pres-
ence of a companion animal, we performed additional post-hoc analyses using separate
variables for passive presence (the companion animal is present but no interaction took place)
and active presence (the companion animal is present and individuals reported to be in an activity)
of the companion animal as predictors. The results show that the passive presence of a com-
panion animal is associated with less negative affect but not more positive affect. This supports
the notion that the (passive) presence of a companion is distinctly associated with lower levels
of NA. The active presence is associated with higher levels of PA as well as lower levels of NA.
The effect of active presence on NA is, however, likely a transfer effect of the (passive) presence
as this variable also entails low levels of activity (reflected in activities like “cuddling” or “seeking
comfort”). This is supported by the finding that a higher level of interaction with a companion
Janssens et al.
585 Anthrozoös
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animal is only associated with higher levels of PA, not with lower levels of NA. Together, these
results indicate that there is indeed a discrepancy between the (passive) presence of a companion
animal and the (active) interaction with a companion animal. The presence of a companion animal
leads to a decrease in negative affect while the interaction with a companion animal increases
only positive affect.
This discrepancy is not surprising considering that these two aspects of human–animal
relations are actually quite different. The interaction with a companion animal generally reflects
the conscious choice of the pet owner to spend time with his or her companion animal. It is
therefore very much a reflection of the need or wish to engage with a companion animal.
Likewise, social interaction between humans has been shown to correlate differentially with PA
and NA, affecting PA but not NA (McIntyre, Watson, & Clark, 1991; Watson, 1988). The fact
that this pattern also emerges in interaction with a companion animal is not surprising as this
discrepancy between PA and NA has been found consistently over studies looking at several
types of social interaction and for both between-subjects and within-subjects analyses
(McIntyre et al., 1991). The presence of a companion animal, however, can be the result of a
pet owner seeking proximity to his or her pet but can also be instigated by the companion
animal (seeking proximity to its owner) or be a result of chance (just happening to be in the
same room). Therefore, the presence of a companion animal is much less the result of a pet-
owner’s conscious decision. This (often unconscious or unintended) presence does, however,
seem to exert its influence on the affective state of the owner as the presence of a compan-
ion animal is associated with lower levels of NA, showing that it is the mere presence of a
companion animal that buffers against negative feelings.
Strengths and Limitations
The main strengths of this study are related to the use of an ecologically valid research design
that allowed us to capture the daily life presence and interaction with companion animals as
well as momentary affective states. In addition, the ESM allowed us to study the influence of
companion animals on affective states implicitly, thus revealing the true nature of the effect as
opposed to individuals’ cognitive interpretation. Also, assessment does not ask for recall or
summary over long periods but focusses on the current state. This minimizes the error and bias
associated with retrospection (Scollon, Kim-Prieto, & Diener, 2003; Shiffman et al., 2008; Trull
& Ebner-Priemer, 2013). Additionally, the multiple assessments over time allow for each
individual to be their own control condition, preventing confounding by pre-existing differences
between pet owners and non-owners.
The results should, however, be viewed in the light of some methodological issues.
First, as pet-presence/-interaction and affect were assessed simultaneously, the direction
of the relationships found between the companion animal and affect cannot be conclu-
sively determined. An alternative explanation to our findings, though considered less
plausible, is that a positive emotional state (high PA, low NA) leads individuals to seek
proximity to, or interaction with, their companion animal. Future ESM research should use
time-lagged analyses to investigate the association between the presence of the com-
panion animal and the emotional state of the owner over time to determine the direction of
the effect conclusively.
Second, this study required individuals to be in possession of a smartphone for the ESM
data collection. The data collection process is very time consuming and possibly resulted in a
selection bias.
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586 Anthrozoös
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Third, the correlation between PA and NA results in shared variance. When correcting for
NA, part of the (true) effect on PA represented in this shared variance is also eliminated and
vice versa. This might have led to an underestimation of the effect.
Finally, the correction for the opposite affective state combined with the lower amount of
variance for NA and the fact that there are less data for pet-presence might also pose a power
problem in detecting the specific association between pet-presence and NA. The conclusions
concerning this specific relationship should therefore be considered tentative.
Conclusions
In summary, the present work indicates that companion animals can be beneficial to human
wellbeing, supporting the pet-effect hypothesis. The presence of a companion animal seems
to buffer against negative feelings, and interacting with a companion animal generates posi-
tive affect. However, the differential effect of the presence of and interaction with a compan-
ion animal on positive and negative affect also shows that the pet-effect is not an unequivocal
effect. Different aspects of the human–animal relationship seem to influence different aspects
of emotional wellbeing. These differential effects may help to explain the inconsistencies in
previous research findings. Depending on the type of interaction measured and the aspects
of (emotional) wellbeing used as outcome measure, findings may differ.
As the direction of causality cannot be conclusively determined with the present design,
future studies should focus on the longitudinal investigation of the association between the
presence of the companion animal and human wellbeing. Further disentanglement of the
elements of human–companion animal interaction and their impact on specific aspects of
(emotional) wellbeing is also warranted. This will not only specify and solidify the scientific
basis of the pet-effect but can also influence animal-assisted interventions, providing insight
into the specific elements of interaction with an animal that result in particular effects on
human psychology.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners
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... A good owner-cat relationship can provide what is known as the pet effect, which refers to the benefits to an individual's emotional well-being in the presence of a pet [23]. Identifying factors associated with a good owner-cat relationship, such as cats' personality traits, will allow us to further elucidate the pet effect. ...
... Identifying factors associated with a good owner-cat relationship, such as cats' personality traits, will allow us to further elucidate the pet effect. According to the results reported by Janssens et al. [23], this effect varies between the presence of and interaction with a companion animal. When a pet is simply present (passive), negative feelings are reduced; however, interacting with the pet generates positive feelings. ...
... The cat-owner interaction was found to be positively correlated with the traits: activeness and friendliness and negatively correlated with aloofness. Based on this result and the findings of Janssens et al. [23], an emotional benefit to humans can be reasonably inferred from this interaction. Likewise, emotional closeness was positively correlated with active, bold and friendly traits. ...
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Studies regarding the cat-owner bond are quite rare, and several aspects merit more research, including personality trait differences in cats related to coat color and the cat-owner relationship. The objectives of the study were to describe, from the perspective of their owners, the personality traits of cats based on their coat colors and to evaluate the relationships among the Cat Owner Relationship Scale (CORS), its subscales and the traits of cats. Therefore, the CORS was translated into Spanish, and its psychometric properties were assessed. For the personality traits of cats, participants answered a 7-point Likert scale indicating the extent to which they agreed with the following characteristics in describing their cats: active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable. 211 cat owners living in Mexico participated. Owners perceived their cats as being bold and friendly. Gray cats had the highest score for being as shy, aloof and intolerant, while orange cats had the highest scores for being trainable, friendly and calm. Tabbies the highest for bold and active, tricolor cats for stubborn, and bicolor cats for tolerant. The 3 CORS subscales had adequate psychometric properties when evaluated separately. Cat-owner interaction was positively correlated with an active and friendly personality and negatively correlated with aloofness. Emotional closeness was positively correlated with an active, bold and friendly personality, and perceived cost was negatively correlated with boldness.
... Increased wellbeing might depend on certain characteristics of human-pet relationships. Higher pet presence, human-pet interactions, and pet attachment have been linked to greater positive affect and lower psychological distress (Barcelos et al., 2020;Bennett et al., 2015;Janssens et al., 2020;Kalenkoski & Korankye, 2022;Teo & Thomas, 2019;Wu et al., 2018). Pet attachment might also be a protective factor by moderating the relationship between loneliness and depression (Krause-Parello, 2012). ...
... Consistent with the previous findings that only specific characteristics of human-pet relationships might influence wellbeing (Janssens et al., 2020;Kalenkoski & Korankye, 2022), pet owners who spent more time actively playing with their pets and dog owners who had more frequent and/or longer walks with their dogs reported higher wellbeing than other pet owners (study 1). Pet owners did not have lower levels of loneliness than non-pet owners, which is congruous with the mixed findings in the literature (Herzog, 2011;Wells, 2019). ...
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ABSTRACT The governmental restrictions in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic led to social isolation, with many people spending more time at home with their pets. The relationships between pet ownership, pet attachment, and wellbeing were examined using two online surveys: one in the early stages of the pandemic (May, 2020) and the other over one year later (September, 2021). Resilience, optimism, and basic psychological need satisfaction (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) were examined as potential moderators. Study 1 had an international sample of 495 participants (70% pet owners), while study 2 had a UK sample of 243 participants (57% pet owners). Most participants reported that their pets provided emotional comfort and had a positive impact on their lives during the early stages of the pandemic. Pet ownership and pet attachment were positively associated with wellbeing in people with low levels of resilience. Conversely, people with high resilience who were pet owners or had higher pet attachment had lower wellbeing than non-pet owners and those less attached. Optimism and basic psychological need satisfaction were not significant moderators. Although some of the associations found in study 1 might have been specific to the beginning of the pandemic, other results were replicated a year later in the UK sample when social restrictions were eased (study 2). The findings from the two studies suggest that higher scores on a subscale of pet attachment, which involves the pet playing a more central role than humans in the owner’s life, might be directly linked to lower resilience and wellbeing and increased loneliness. The combination of high resilience and higher levels of pet attachment or pet ownership might be unfavorable. Nonetheless, pet ownership and healthy human–animal bonds can be protective factors for people with low levels of resilience.
... HAI have been shown to provide health benefits for humans (4)(5)(6)(7), and research also demonstrates that the amount and quality or nature of interactions between animals and their caretakers and handlers have a significant effect on the behavior, physiology and wellbeing of farmed (8)(9)(10) and domestic animals (11,12). ...
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The Integrative Model of Human-Animal Interactions (IMHAI) described herewith provides a conceptual framework for the study of interspecies interactions and aims to model the primary emotional processes involved in human-animal interactions. This model was developed from theoretical inputs from three fundamental disciplines for understanding interspecies interactions: neuroscience, psychology and ethology, with the objective of providing a transdisciplinary approach on which field professionals and researchers can build and collaborate. Seminal works in affective neuroscience offer a common basis between humans and animals and, as such, can be applied to the study of interspecies interactions from a One Health-One Welfare perspective. On the one hand, Jaak Panksepp's research revealed that primary/basic emotions originate in the deep subcortical regions of the brain and are shared by all mammals, including humans. On the other hand, several works in the field of neuroscience show that the basic physiological state is largely determined by the perception of safety. Thus, emotional expression reflects the state of an individual's permanent adaptation to ever-changing environmental demands. Based on this evidence and over 5 years of action research using grounded theory, alternating between research and practice, the IMHAI proposes a systemic approach to the study of primary-process emotional affects during interspecies social interactions, through the processes of emotional transfer, embodied communication and interactive emotional regulation. IMHAI aims to generate new hypotheses and predictions on affective behavior and interspecies communication. Application of such a model should promote risk prevention and the establishment of positive links between humans and animals thereby contributing to their respective wellbeing.
... There is a vast body of research about the positive effects of pets on people's psychological wellbeing [2,[25][26][27][28][29]. While these may be exerted through different mechanisms [30] that are not mutually exclusive, research often agrees on the pets' ability to operate as a source of social support for their human companions [7,[31][32][33]. ...
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The restrictive measures implemented to stem the spread of COVID-19 abruptly changed the lives of many cats and their owners. This study explored whether the lockdown in Italy affected the cat–owner relationship, as well as cat behaviour and welfare. A survey that included questions on owner and cat’s demographics, living environment, cat behaviour and a modified version of the Cat/Dog Relationship Scale (C/DORS) was distributed online during the lockdown and was completed by 548 cat owners, mainly women (81.6%). With regard to the C/DORS subscales, both emotional closeness and cat–owner interactions increased during confinement, as opposed to a reduction in perceived costs. The effect of the type of job, family role and owner’s age on the C/DORS scores suggests that the relationship improved for those owners that, due to the lockdown, increased the time spent with their cats. For 58.8% of respondents, their cat’s general behaviour did not change, but when changes occurred, they were mostly positive (20.4%). Attention-seeking and demanding behaviours were the most increased during lockdown (25.7%). Cats with pre-existing problematic behaviours tended to either remain stable or improve during confinement. The overall positive effects of lockdown-related environmental changes on a cat’s behaviour suggest that some aspects of commonly implemented cat management practices should be revised to improve cat welfare in normal circumstances.
... Specifiek in een werkcontext kunnen dieren meer pauzes tijdens de werkdag triggeren, waardoor werknemers beter ontkoppelen, stemming verbetert en stress afneemt (Sonnentag et al., 2010). Daarnaast is gebleken dat het stress-verlagende effect en het "sociale lijm"-effect van dieren en het sociale lijm-effect van honden op werkgroepen verklaard kan worden door het optreden van positieve emoties (Colarelli et al., 2017;Janssens et al., 2020). Ten slotte zijn positieve werkuitkomsten veelal te wijten aan psychologische veiligheid of ook het gevoel van werknemers om zichzelf te kunnen zijn zonder te hoeven vrezen voor negatieve gevolgen hiervan (Kahn, 1990). ...
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Werknemers wereldwijd ruilden sinds de COVID-19 pandemie massaal hun reguliere werkplek in voor het thuiskantoor, waar in plaats van collega’s gezinsleden deel uitmaken van de dagelijkse werkomgeving. Naast menselijke huisgenoten maken bij ongeveer de helft van de Vlaamse huishoudens ook huisdieren deel uit van het gezin. Meer nog: sinds de pandemie-gerelateerde “lockdown” restricties, is er een explosieve stijging in de adoptie van huisdieren. Waar katten het versturen van foutloze e-mails kunnen bemoeilijken, verzorgen honden al eens backing vocals tijdens virtuele vergaderingen. Naast mogelijke hinder zijn er echter ook voordelen verbonden aan dieren in de (thuis)werkomgeving. Zo kunnen huisdieren een buffer vormen voor gekende nadelen van thuiswerk voor mentaal en fysiek welzijn. Maar daar stopt het niet: ook op de reguliere werkplek buitenshuis, bijvoorbeeld op kantoor, laten dieren hun sporen na op werknemerswelzijn. Hoe ze dat juist doen, thuis en op kantoor, en waarom werkgevers stilaan steeds vaker huisdieren “on site” lijken toe te laten, schets ik hieronder.
... ificant cultural and social role in modern societies in many areas (Taylor & Signal, 2005). One of these roles is the beneficial effects of animals in mental health areas such as more motivation, less anxiety or depressive symptoms, increased social relations and emotional wellbeing (Bolstad et. al., 2021;Foerder & Royer, 2021;Hawkins et al., 2021;Janssens et. al., 2020). Animal rights refers to dealing with human-animal relations as a social movement within the framework of laws and organizations (Siddiq et al., 2018). If humans see animals as creatures that are different from them and inferior to them, they are likely to develop an attitude based on the assumption that animals exist only to serve them ...
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Keywords Abstract Attitudes towards animal rights Empathy Animal rights The attitudes that are formed due to human-animal interactions has proven to be an essential and unique research field for psychology. This study aims to determine whether the attitudes of adults towards animal rights significantly differ according to the following variables: gender, educational background, marital status, having children, pet ownership, and membership to non-governmental organizations dealing with animal right issues. It also examines how attitudes towards animal rights predict empathy. The participants of the study are 493 adults (289 female, 204 male), living in Turkey. The participants were determined through convenient sampling method. The data was collected through Attitudes towards Animal Rights Scale and Basic Empathy Scale. Independent samples t-test and multiple standard linear regression analysis were used for the analysis. The results revealed significant differences between the participants' attitudes towards animal rights and their gender, educational background, marital status, having children, pet ownership, having a pet in the past and membership to non-governmental organizations dealing with animal right issues. In addition, regression analysis showed that attitudes towards animal rights and having pets in the past accounted for empathy. The study showed that respect to animal rights is an important variable that accounts for empathy. Suggestions and directions for further research are discussed.
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The objective of this study was to investigate the day-to-day experiences of positive and negative emotions among partners of veterans assigned service dogs for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As part of a larger clinical trial, a total of N = 87 partners of post-9/11 veterans with PTSD were recruited from a nonprofit service dog provider and participated in an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) protocol. The sample included partners of veterans who received a PTSD service dog after baseline (n = 48, treatment group) and partners of veterans on the waitlist for a service dog (n = 39, control group). Data were collected twice daily for two weeks at baseline and again at follow-up three months later, for approximately 56 assessments per participant (28 at baseline, 28 at follow up). Participants completed an average of 84% of questionnaires at baseline (n = 23.6) and 86% (n = 24.1) at follow-up. A total of 3780 EMA questionnaires were collected among partners for this analysis. Data were analyzed using a generalized linear mixed model. Three months following baseline, partners of veterans with service dogs reported statistically significant higher levels of positive emotions than the control partners (p = .01, d = 0.39) with small-to-medium effect sizes for each individual positive emotion. No statistically significant differences were reported for negative emotions (p = .77, d = 0.21). This study quantitatively identifies higher levels of positive emotion in partners who are cohabitating with a PTSD service dog compared to those partners who remained on the waitlist. Given the influence that positive emotions have on well-being and coping, findings suggest that the influence of service dogs may go beyond veterans to influence their cohabitating partners.
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Are pets associated with happiness in their owners? Some research has demonstrated positive connections between pets and the physical health of their owners, and more recently, research has shown the beneficial effects of pets on the negative aspects of mental health as well. However, much less research has focused on the relation between pets and the positive aspects of mental health, such as happiness. In the current study, 263 American adults completed an online survey using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Results indicate that pet owners were more satisfied with their lives than non-owners, but did not differ on other wellbeing measures, personality measures, emotion regulation, or need satisfaction. Dog owners scored higher on all aspects of wellbeing compared with cat owners, and differed on a number of other measures, including the Big Five personality traits, emotion regulation strategies, and need satisfaction. The relationship between type of pet owned and wellbeing was mediated by the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, specifically), emotion regulation strategy, and need satisfaction. In addition, self-identified “dog people,” relative to “cat people,” showed similar patterns to those of dog owners, but the effects were often smaller and non-significant. Although there may not be many differences between those who own pets and those who do not, clearly owning a dog is associated with beneficial outcomes. Implications and future directions are discussed.
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Assessment in clinical psychology typically relies on global retrospective self-reports collected at research or clinic visits, which are limited by recall bias and are not well suited to address how behavior changes over time and across contexts. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) involves repeated sampling of subjects' current behaviors and experiences in real time, in subjects' natural environments. EMA aims to minimize recall bias, maximize ecological validity, and allow study of microprocesses that influence behavior in real-world contexts. EMA studies assess particular events in subjects' lives or assess subjects at periodic intervals, often by random time sampling, using technologies ranging from written diaries and telephones to electronic diaries and physiological sensors. We discuss the rationale for EMA, EMA designs, methodological and practical issues, and comparisons of EMA and recall data. EMA holds unique promise to advance the science and practice of clinical psychology by shedding light on the dynamics of behavior in real-world settings.
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Nonhuman animals are ubiquitous to human life, and permeate a diversity of social contexts by providing humans with food and clothing, serving as participants in research, improving healing, and offering entertainment, leisure, and companionship. Despite the impact that animals have on human lives and vice versa, the field of psychology has barely touched upon the topic of human-animal relations as an important domain of human activity. We review the current state of research on human-animal relations, showing how this body of work has implications for a diverse range of psychological themes including evolutionary processes, development, normative factors, gender and individual differences, health and therapy, and intergroup relations. Our aim is to highlight human-animal relations as a domain of human life that merits theoretical and empirical attention from psychology as a discipline. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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Background Pet ownership is thought to make a positive contribution to health, health behaviours and the general well-being of older people. More specifically pet ownership is often proposed as a solution to the problem of loneliness in later life and specific ‘pet based’ interventions have been developed to combat loneliness. However the evidence to support this relationship is slim and it is assumed that pet ownership is a protection against loneliness rather than a response to loneliness. The aim of this paper is to examine the association between pet ownership and loneliness by exploring if pet ownership is a response to, or protection against, loneliness using Waves 0–5 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Methods Using data from 5,210 men and women in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, cross-sectional and longitudinal regression analysis was used to assess the bi-directional relationship between loneliness and pet ownership among adults aged 50 + . Results In 2001 (wave 0) 41% of participants were pet owners compared with 30% in 2010 (Wave 5). The association between pet ownership and loneliness is stronger in women than men, and in both directions (i.e. pet ownership predicting loneliness and loneliness predicting pet ownership) and of the similar magnitude (OR 1.2-1.4). Age, social relationships, demographic factors and health behaviour variables have only a minimal influence upon the association between loneliness and pet ownership. The results of our longitudinal analysis showed that women who reported being lonely always in Waves 0 to 5 were more likely to have a pet in Wave 5. Conclusion Reported loneliness is dependent on socio-demographic characteristics such as gender, household income, household living arrangements and health status. Taking those factors into account, owning a pet significantly influences later reporting of loneliness in women in our longitudinal analysis. In the reverse direction, reported loneliness influences pet ownership in later waves. In both directions, the relatively strong gender interaction suggests the association is limited to women with effects for men minimal or non-existent.
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Because of extensive media coverage, it is now widely believed that pets enhance their owners’ health, sense of psychological well-being, and longevity. But while some researchers have reported that positive effects accrue from interacting with animals, others have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non–pet owners. I discuss some reasons why studies of the effects of pets on people have produced conflicting results, and I argue that the existence of a generalized “pet effect” on human mental and physical health is at present not a fact but an unsubstantiated hypothesis.
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Animals have accompanied humans for thousands of years, with a strong bond forged between humans and other species. Our relationships with animals can take different forms. On one hand, animals can serve instrumental purposes: We currently use animals for clothing, for testing a range of human products, for gaining basic insights into human biology and behavior, and as food. On the other hand, human–animal relations are social. The clearest example is the practice of pet keeping, with people attributing a special status to their companion animals. We review the current state of research on human–animal relations by focusing particularly on companion animals and on the psychological mechanisms involved in this special relationship. Our aim is to highlight key findings from human–animal relations research that also have implications for different scientific disciplines.
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The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate quantitative studies of companion animals and human loneliness. Five electronic databases (PubMed, Medline, Web of Science, Academic Search Premier, PsychInfo) were searched for articles on companion animals (including animal-assisted therapies [AAT]) and human loneliness. Searches were not limited to a particular language or timeframe. Three randomized controlled studies (RCTs), one controlled study, one prospective cohort study, two longitudinal, and 14 cross-sectional studies satisfied all inclusion criteria and were each evaluated independently by both authors according to standardized criteria, with disagreements resolved by discussion. All except one study was underpowered. The methodological quality of the three RCTs was low, as measured on the Jadad scale. Eleven studies reported positive findings, of which five related to service dogs. While none of the positive studies provided convincing evidence that companion animals help to alleviate loneliness, there was promising evidence that AAT may do this (although effects may be due to aspects of the therapy rather than the animal). As further cross-sectional studies are unlikely to improve understanding of the role of companion animals on human loneliness, we suggest that there is a need for rigorous and adequately powered RCTs.
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Pet owners often describe their pets as important and cherished family members who offer solace in times of stress. This article considers evidence suggesting that pets influence human blood pressure. Studies on this topic extend current research testing the hypothesis that having other people around in stressful times can buffer the negative consequences of stress. The existing data suggest that people perceive pets as important, supportive parts of their lives and that the presence of a pet is associated with significant cardiovascular benefits, among both people with normal blood pressure and those with high blood pressure. Studies about pets and blood pressure have examined both naturally occurring and randomly assigned pet ownership but are limited by their focus on responses to short-term, acute stress. Future prospective studies should explore the influence of pets on people at risk for cardiovascular disease and also consider explanatory mechanisms for the pet effect.
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Substantial sums of money are invested annually in preventative medicine and therapeutic treatment for people with a wide range of physical and psychological health problems, sometimes to no avail. There is now mounting evidence to suggest that companion animals, such as dogs and cats, can enhance the health of their human owners and may thus contribute significantly to the health expenditure of our country. This paper explores the evidence that pets can contribute to human health and well-being. The article initially concentrates on the value of animals for short- and long-term physical health, before exploring the relationship between animals and psychological health, focusing on the ability of dogs, cats, and other species to aid the disabled and serve as a “therapist” to those in institutional settings. The paper also discusses the evidence for the ability of dogs to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of specific chronic diseases, notably cancer, epilepsy, and diabetes. Mechanisms underlying the ability of animals to promote human health are discussed within a theoretical framework. Whereas the evidence for a direct causal association between human well-being and companion animals is not conclusive, the literature reviewed is largely supportive of the widely held, and long-standing, belief that “pets are good for us.”