Research on Pet Ownership and Their Behaviour

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Pet ownership allows people to have a companion to rely on when no one else would listen and judge us. Pets are by the master’s side, they have loyalty and better personalities than people. There are significant benefits of owning a pet as they are used as therapy animals at hospitals, guide dogs, and are used as service animals and for protection such as bomb sniffing dogs at the airport and Times Square. There is a correlation between owning a pet and the health of the owner. Pets are used to enhance social participation. Pet ownership is a meaningful occupation that allows people to interact with each other, develop social skills and decrease self-unworthiness. Pet ownership allows people with or without mental illness to participate in social context without exclusion and judgement.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of the study was to find out if pet ownership is a meaningful occupation for people who have serious mental illnesses. Zimolag and Krupa tested their hypothesis by comparing mental health pet owners versus mental health non-pet owners. They conducted the study to understand if there were clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of pet owners and non-pet owners and understand their motivations for owning or not owning a pet. (Zimolag and Krupa, 2009, p. 128). Their second hypothesis was to see “if pet owners would engage in meaningful activities and would have better physical, social and psychological community integration than those without pets” (p. 128).

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The participants were from the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) who live in a small rural area in Ontario. ACT provides 24 hours, all year round services within the person’s own home and community. The measurement assessments that were used were Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), Engagement in Meaningful Activities Scale (EMAS), 10 social demographic questionnaires, The Physical Community Integration Scale and The Social Community Integration Scale. GAF is used to measure overall functioning and estimates symptoms and psychosocial and occupational functioning. Meanwhile, EMAS is a 12 item, 5 point assessment. It measures how often the person feels that he or she engages in an activity. The questionnaire asked the participants on their motivations for both owning or not owning a pet and living or not living with a pet. The Social Community Integration Scale measured the frequency of social contact with neighbors. The Physical Community Integration Scale asked about the frequency and different types of activities that participants socialized outside of their home (p. 128 and 129).


The results were that men were less likely to be pet owners compared to women. The motivations that were reported for pet ownership were companionship and someone to love. As for against pet ownership, cost and the landlords would not allow tenants to own pets. were the reasons why people did not own a pet. Pet owners scored higher on EMAS and the GAF (p. 129 and 131). The clinical characteristics of pet owners and non-pet owners were problems with primary support group, social environment and occupational problems (p.132). Meanwhile, pet ownership could be a mother role since it requires someone to take care of another living creature. It allows women to fulfill the mother role: occupation, social role and feminine identity (p.133). Pet owners also had higher scores on social community integration (p. 133). The hypothesis that Zimolag and Krupa tested proves that pet owners do have better social community integration than non-pet owners. This shows that pet ownership does influence a person’s ability to engage in an activity in a community context. They suggest that research for pet ownership as an occupation is necessary to know how to provide intervention, grade the occupation, and understand the environmental demands and skills required for this occupation (p. 134).

Occupational Therapy Practice

The results that was obtained from this study is useful in the practice of occupational therapy because mental health clients can participate in the society by owning a pet. It allows them to develop skills such as social interaction skills, maintaining a pet care schedule, and decrease their symptoms. It will increase their self-esteem by expressing their thoughts and feelings to the animal since the animal will not judge them. In DeSouza’s study (2000), they reported that mental illness pet owners felt that pets were dependent on conditional love and approval and they were given an opportunity to care for them without having the complex human relationship dynamics (p.128). This makes these clients feel that they can care for someone just like any other human being and that their love is reciprocal with the animal.

Activity Analysis and Future Practice

This article relates to activity analysis course since pet ownership comes with plenty of responsibilities such as cognition, negotiation, caregiving skills, problem solving, and understanding the physical and environmental demands and space demands (p.134). Pet ownership is under instrumental activities of daily living (IADL’s) since it requires caring for pets. There are routines that comes along with pet owner responsibilities such as the frequency to walk the dog, feeding schedule, changing the pad or litter, veterinarian appointments, and grooming maintenance. Body functions and structures are required for this occupation such as memory, attention, joint stability and mobility, gait patterns, control of voluntary movement and so much more. Pet occupation can be used in future practice because future occupational therapists may have to deal with mental illness clients who do not respond verbally, or they do not want to participate in the activity. By having therapy dogs, the therapist can have the client engage in the activity and understand what is meaningful to them since they do not feel judged when they are working with the animal.

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