Although the relationship between pet ownership and health and wellbeing has received considerable attention in popular media, research on the topic shows inconsistent findings. We addressed the methodological weaknesses of previous studies by using data from a national probability survey (the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study; n = 13,347). We describe the demographic characteristics and personality of pet owners in New Zealand, examine whether pet owners cluster together by pet types, and test whether pet ownership and pet type are associated with health and wellbeing measures. The majority of participants (61.6%) reported having a pet, and we identified six clusters of ownership by pet type. Pet owners were more likely than non-owners to be younger, women, European, parents, partnered, employed, living rurally, and living in less deprived areas. Pet owners were less likely than non-owners to be of Asian ethnicity and religious and had lower mean levels of education. We found no evidence of reliable differences between pet owners and non-owners in the personality characteristics of extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, or honesty-humility. However, pet owners scored higher than non-owners in openness and lower in conscientiousness. We found no reliable differences between pet owners and non-owners in selfesteem, life satisfaction, psychological distress, physical health diagnoses, or self-reported health. However, compared with non-owners, pet owners were more likely to report diagnoses of depression and anxiety. Although the relationship between pet ownership and depression diagnoses held across the six clusters of pet ownership, results indicated that the higher rates of anxiety were most commonly associated with cat ownership. Future longitudinal research is needed to establish whether pets decrease owners’ health and wellbeing or rather that people in need of comfort tend to seek pets.
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