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Dognition : the effect of pet ownership on cognition in older adults

By Molly McSweeney

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect of pet ownership on cognition in older adults. Previous research has indicated that interactions with pets are associated with improved mental and physical health in humans. We predicted that these benefits of human-pet interactions will extend to expose superior cognitive functioning in cat-owning or dog-owning older adults as compared to older adults who do not own pets. More specifically, we hypothesized that dog-owners would perform significantly better than cat-owners and non-pet owners on cognitive tasks as owning a dog requires exceeding attention, training, and exercise. We tested this effect using data collected from a recognition memory task. Older adults (N=52; 65-85 years old) were individually tested on their memory for words in recognition memory tasks. These data were analyzed, along with participant responses on questionnaires measuring human-pet relationships, loneliness, and mood. We found that cat owners performed significantly worse on the recognition memory test than both the dog owners and the non-pet owners.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2016
Pages 26
Department Psychology
Language English
University University of Richmond
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Cognition
  3. Older adults
  4. open access
  5. Pet ownership
  6. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access