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Depression, loneliness, and pet attachment in homebound older adult cat and dog owners

By Sandy M. Branson, Lisa Boss, Stanley Cron, Dennis C. Turner

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Background: Companion animals may reduce depression and loneliness in socially isolated homebound older adults. However, whether owning a cat or dog is more beneficial in this population remains unknown.

Materials and Methods: Pet attachment and the levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness were examined in 39 homebound older adults who exclusively owned a cat(s) or a dog(s). Cat owners (n = 12) and dog owners (n=27) were assessed for depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form), loneliness (R-UCLA Loneliness Scale), and attachment to pets (Likert scale).

Results: Cat owners reported significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than dog owners (t= 2.12; p = 0.04). There were no significant differences between cat owners and dog owners in regards to levels of loneliness (t = -0.83; p = 0.41). Both cat owners and dog owners reported a high level of attachment to pets (Median=10 of 10).

Conclusions: Although this study provides preliminary evidence that owning a cat to which one is attached is associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms than owning a dog to which one is attached in homebound older adults, the findings should be replicated with longitudinal studies. Findings from such studies may assist homebound older adults in selecting either a cat or dog as a companion pet.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2017
Publication Title Journal of Mind and Medical Science
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 38-48
Publisher Valparaiso University
Location of Publication Valparaiso, Indiana
DOI 10.22543/7674.41.P3848
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Cats
  5. Depression
  6. Dogs
  7. Health
  8. Loneliness
  9. Mammals
  10. Older adults
  11. Pet ownership
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. Social Environments