Having a furry friend: The benefits of pet-keeping behavior

[Speaker] Shen, Zhuozhuo:1,2
[Co-author] Dr. Tao, Yick Ku, Vivienne:3, Hall, Brian J.:2,3,4
1:University of Macau (Macao), 2:Global and Community Mental Health Research Group, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, University of Macau (Macao), 3:Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS), University of Macau, Macau, People's Republic of China (Macao), 4:Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Baltimore, MD, USA (United States of America)

Interacting with pets positively influences mental health (e.g., emotion, life satisfaction, empathy) and behavior (e.g., helping behavior). This study investigated the purported benefits of pet ownership and the possible variables which may be associated with those benefits. Participants (N=506) were Chinese citizens recruited from the internet by using snowball sampling. Two groups were compared: pet owners: n=366; non-pet owners: n=140. The results showed that level of pet attachment was positively correlated with loneliness, empathy, helping behavior, and life satisfaction while it was negatively correlated with interpersonal sensitivity. Path analysis was used to test mediation. Pet attachment was positively associated with life satisfaction, which was mediated by helping behavior and interpersonal sensitivity. Pet owners are more attached to pets and show more helping behavior towards animals than non-pet owners. Dog and/or cat owners reported higher attachment levels than other pet owners.
Keywords: pet ownership, mental health benefits, pet attachment, helping behavior
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