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The Beginning, the End, and All the Happiness in Between: Pet Owners’ Wellbeing from Pet Acquisition to Death

By Tihana Brkljačić, Ines Sučić, Lana Lučić, Renata Glavak Tkalić, Ljiljana Kaliterna Lipovčan

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

The aim of this study was to provide deeper insight into the relationship between pet-related life events and the subjective wellbeing of pet owners, as well as to analyze definitions of happiness that included reference to pets. This research was conducted online as a part of the Croatian Longitudinal Study on Wellbeing (CRO-WELL). For the purposes of this study, the following variables were selected: overall happiness, life satisfaction, subjective ratings of health, and the occurrence and parameters (positivity, negativity, importance, anticipation) of two pet-related life events: acquiring a pet and the death of a pet during the previous year. Additionally, of a pool of lay people’s definitions of happiness (n = 4,059), those containing a reference to pets (n = 89) were analyzed. The total sample consisted of 5,034 participants, of whom 658 acquired a pet in the past year, 272 experienced the death of a pet, and an additional 221 experienced both events. Participants who experienced the death of a pet during the previous year were significantly less happy and satisfied compared with those who did not obtain a pet and did not experience the death of a pet in the previous year. Overall happiness was weakly positively correlated with positive evaluations of obtaining a pet and the importance of obtaining a pet. The anticipation of the death of a pet was positively related to positive evaluations of the death of the animal, suggesting an adaptation process took place before the death. Participants who attributed less importance to an event were more likely to experience positive events (obtaining a pet) as less positive and negative events (death of a pet) as less negative. Participants who anticipated an event evaluated it as more positive and less negative. Out of 4,059 participants who provided definitions of happiness, 89 (2.2%) of them included pets in these definitions. Over half of them referred to the pet as the most important member of the family or was equal to other family members, while in the remaining definitions pets were only a part/fragment of a broader definition of happiness. Participants referred mostly to dogs or used the generic word “pet,” while cats, the only animal named beside dogs, were mentioned in only a few cases. Greeting the owner was the most frequently mentioned activity, while the joy of a pet and unconditional love were the most frequently mentioned emotions.

Publication Title Anthrozoös
Volume 33
Issue 1
Pages 71-87
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2020.1694313
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Tags
  1. Happiness
  2. Human-animal interactions
  3. Life events
  4. Pet loss
  5. Pets and companion animals
  6. Well-being