Pets as Conduits to Health?

As I made my way to one of my regular dog-walking clients yesterday, I caught a story on the radio about a new study out of the Rand Corporation. Contrary to what the authors call “a widely held belief that children’s general and psychological health benefits from owning and/or interacting with pets,” there was no statistically significant difference between the health of children who lived with pet animals and those who lived solely with other humans.

Let’s side-step an interrogation of the study’s assumption that children’s health is a major reason adults adopt cats and dogs. We all have assumptions about the motivations of other people in our culture. For example, my assumption has long been that some parents and guardians see pets as a way to teach their children responsibility, aside from perhaps enjoying the company of companion animals themselves or wishing to reproduce the conditions of their own childhoods for their offspring. I cannot access the full study to see whether the authors cite any sources that back up their particular assumption. A quick glance at the references section indicates both an explosion of scholarship on pet-human relationships and that the authors likely have research to back up the assumption stated above.

Back when I spent a lot of time researching U.S. pet-keeping practices, I don’t recall reading or asking my informants about the reasons they chose to bring pet animals into their homes. This not only seems like a significant oversight on my part, but an intriguing line of research to pursue in the future. At the very least, I’m considering subscribing to Anthrozoös.

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3 Comments

Filed under Animals, Childhood, Contemporary

3 responses to “Pets as Conduits to Health?

  1. You know, I about expected you to circle back to the cultural ideas about pets as food. That said, as someone who only had a pet for a few years (and then only because my partner at the time owned a dog), I’m very curious about why folks own pets, and even more curious about *how* they own them (training, dressing them in clothes, treating them like humans, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard about this study, too. I don’t know about for kids…but I know that there is a lot of pet therapy for seniors.

    Liked by 1 person

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