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Keeping Lily Safe: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Human–Animal Attachment during Adversity

By Catherine Lee

Category Journal Articles

This article is an autoethnographic examination of my experiences as a pet owner during a particularly challenging time in my life. Beginning with a summary of a critical incident, it shows the way in which fears for the safety of my pet cat, Lily, and my relationship with her impacted my health, wellbeing and identity. Depicting self-knowledge as partial, local and culturally located, I deconstruct the relationship I had with Lily in relation to the particular set of circumstances in which it was situated. I was seen by my doctor and prescribed a course of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) during this period, and so, my account draws on my medical records, CBT notes and my CBT thought diary in an attempt to understand how and why my anxiety was manifested in my concern for Lily. The article calls for cognitive behaviour therapists to carefully evaluate external stressors before fears are dismissed irrational and reformulated as alternative thoughts. This article also demonstrates that familiesare diverse, and there are many ways of ‘doing family’. For many heterosexual and same-sex couples, pets give stability to a partnership and elevate it to family status, if only within the privacy of the home. Human–animal attachments can be comparable to human–human attachments, and where attachments to pets are as strong as those toward humans, fear of harm can be devastating.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Social Sciences
Volume 8
Issue 7
Pages 14
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/socsci8070217
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Attachment
  3. Family
  4. Homosexuality
  5. Human-animal relationships
  6. open access
  7. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access