Pet ownership as a meaningful community occupation for people with serious mental illness

Zimolag U, Krupa T.  Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  Am J Occup Ther. 2009 Mar-Apr;63(2):126-37.

OBJECTIVE: We determined the proportion of pet owners and non-pet owners with serious mental illness, compared their characteristics and their motivations for owning or not owning a pet, and examined the relationship between pet ownership and engagement in meaningful activity and three dimensions of community integration.

METHOD: Three Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams reported on the pet ownership of all service recipients (N = 204). Of these recipients, 60 completed a survey. Nonparametric tests were selected for data analysis.

RESULTS: Of 204 ACT clients, 38 (18.6%) were pet owners. Twenty-tour (63.2%) of 38 responding non-pet owners desired to live with a pet. There were significant differences between groups on diagnosis, gender, a global measure of function, meaningful activity, and psychological integration.

CONCLUSION: The key finding supports the hypothesis that pet owners with serious mental illness living in the community demonstrate higher social community integration. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.