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Interpersonal and Pet Attachment, Empathy toward Animals, and Anthropomorphism: An Investigation of Pet Owners in Romania

By Alina Simona Rusu, Carmen Costea-Barlutiu, Dennis C. Turner

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The current study investigates the associations between interpersonal and pet attachment (anxiety and avoidance dimensions), empathy toward animals, and anthropomorphism in the Romanian cultural context, where problems regarding the effectiveness of pet management programs are still being reported. A sample of 244 adult respondents, with a mean age of 32.9 years, mostly females (89.8%) and pet owners, completed standard instruments of interpersonal and pet attachment, empathy toward animals and anthropomorphism. In agreement with other studies in the field of human-animal interactions, our data indicate that female pet owners scored higher than male owners in empathy toward animals and the level of anthropomorphism. Dog owners scored higher in empathy toward animals and anthropomorphism, and lower in pet attachment avoidance compared to owners of other types of pets (cats, reptiles, birds, etc.). Our data indicate significant correlations between anxiety and avoidance dimensions of pet and interpersonal attachment. The level of anthropomorphism was positively associated with pet attachment anxiety and empathy toward animals, and negatively associated with pet attachment avoidance. A partial mediation of the relationship between pet attachment avoidance and anthropomorphism by empathy toward animals was found. Results are discussed from the perspective of considering empathy toward animals as an important variable to be addressed in humane education programs and in attachment-based counseling of current and future pet owners.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice
Volume 2
Issue 1
Pages 15
Publisher Purdue University Press
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Attachment
  3. Attitudes about animals
  4. Companion pet attachment
  5. Empathy
  6. open access
  7. Pet ownership
  8. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access