In this study we examined associations between pet ownership and presence and indicators of psychological wellbeing in older Australians, using an innovative, experience sampling methodology and a community-living sample of 68 adults, including 41 pet owners, all aged over 65 years. In response to randomized prompts the participants provided information about their location, social companions, activities, and mood state six times daily for seven consecutive days. They also completed a number of surveys measuring various aspects of wellbeing. There were no significant differences in our outcome measures between pet owners and those who did not own at least one pet, and few of our pet owners reported engaging in pet-focused human– animal activities, such as walking their dog or playing with their cat. However, frequency of pet presence during activities of daily living was associated with, and statistically predictive of, several measures of wellbeing and mood. From our results we tentatively conclude that more frequent presence of a pet, particularly a dog, may be associated with greater psychological wellbeing in this cohort. More importantly, we confirm that the intensive experience sampling methodology provides a novel means of examining human–pet interactions, enabling a closer analysis of moment-by-moment pet presence than has been possible using alternative approaches.
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