Few studies consider the health benefits of pet ownership from a biopsychosocial perspective, and a paucity of studies investigate cat ownership. The current study was designed to determine if psychosocial factors (stress, loneliness, and depression), biological levels of stress and inflammation (salivary cortisol, interleukin-1β, and C-reactive protein [CRP]), and cognitive function were associated with companion cat ownership/attachment in community-dwelling older adults. Community-dwelling older adults (n = 96, mean age = 76.6 years) who either owned a cat and no dog (n = 41) or owned neither a cat nor a dog (n = 55) completed questionnaires (Perceived Stress Scale, Revised–UCLA Loneliness Scale, Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale) and provided saliva specimens which were assayed for stress and inflammatory biomarkers. The majority of participants screened positive for mild cognitive impairment, reported low levels of stress, loneliness, and depression, and the biomarkers reflected fairly low levels of stress and inflammation. Binary logistic regression analysis revealed that psychosocial factors, salivary biomarkers, and cognitive function were not significantly associated with cat ownership. Age was the only significant predictor of cat ownership (OR = 0.92, p < 0.01) with the odds of cat ownership decreasing by 8.3% per year of advancing age. On average, cat owners were “somewhat attached” to their cats; however, 26% were “strongly attached” to their cats. Correlation analyses revealed the level of attachment to cats was not associated with study outcomes. These results show that cat ownership declined with each advancing year, which lessens the opportunity for older adults to form attachment bonds. The level of pet attachment supports the consideration of cats as a source of an attachment relationship for older adults, including those with cognitive impairment.
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