Social Support and Wellbeing in Cat and Dog Owners, and the Moderating Influence of Pet–Owner Relationship Quality
Abstract: People have kept companion animals for millennia, a tradition thatimplies mutual benefits due to its persistence; however, scientificinvestigations present mixed results. Some research suggests petowners are less lonely than non-owners, but otherfindingssuggest pet owners have higher psychological distress. Researchcomparing owners with non-owners is limited, andmethodological inconsistencies need to be addressed. This studyinvestigated social support and wellbeing (positive functioning)in cat and dog owners, informed by social support theory,attachment, and social exchange theories. It was hypothesizedthat (1) pet support would predict wellbeing in addition tohuman support and (2) at least one aspect of pet–ownerrelationship quality would influence the relationship betweensocial support and wellbeing. An adult sample of 89 cat ownersand 149 dog owners (n= 238; 205 females and 33 males)completed an online survey comprising a demographicsquestionnaire, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived SocialSupport, the Cat/Dog–Owner Relationship Quality Scale, thePsychological Wellbeing Scale, and Satisfaction with Life Scale.Social support measures included some demographics ontheoretical grounds to measure the construct multidimensionally.Hierarchical and multiple regressions were conducted, and resultsindicated that both hypotheses were supported: having morepets significantly predicted greater psychological wellbeing inaddition to human social support. Unexpectedly, perceived petsupport significantly, positively predicted life satisfaction whenperceived emotional closeness with pet was low. Thesefindingsindicate that pets may improve psychological functioning andthat emotional closeness is an important moderating factor.Practical implications include the social benefits of pets for thosewho could benefit from greater psychological functioning andimproved life satisfaction.