Social Indicators Research

, Volume 102, Issue 3, pp 373–388 | Cite as

About Cats and Dogs … Reconsidering the Relationship Between Pet Ownership and Health Related Outcomes in Community-Dwelling Elderly

  • Mieke RijkenEmail author
  • Sandra van Beek


Having a pet has been claimed to have beneficial health effects, but methodologically sound empirical studies are scarce. Small sample sizes and a lack of information about the specific type of pets involved make it difficult to draw unambiguous conclusions. We aimed to shed light on the relationship between pet ownership and several health related outcomes by conducting a survey among a large national sample of community-dwelling elderly in The Netherlands, all suffering from chronic illness or disability. We distinguished several types of pets, focusing on cats and dogs. Pet ownership was associated with a greater chance of using ambulatory mental healthcare, whereas it was not related to self-reported general or mental health. Considering possible mechanisms, associations between pet ownership and the frequency of social contacts or feelings of loneliness were not found. Having a dog increased the likelihood of being healthy active, whereas having a cat showed the opposite. Future research should pay more attention to pet related characteristics, in addition to characteristics of the human sample.


Pets Self-reported health Mental health Physical exercise Loneliness Health services use 



This study forms part of the research programme National Panel of people with Chronic illness or Disability (NPCD). NPCD is funded by the Netherlands ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, and the Netherlands ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services ResearchUtrechtThe Netherlands

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