Associations between Pet Care Responsibility, Companion Animal Interactions, and Family Relationships during COVID-19
1.1. Identifying as a Pet Caretaker: Are They Family Members or Household Chores?
1.2. Navigating Pet Caretaking Responsibilities within Families
1.3. Evolving Pet Caretaking Needs and Family Relations during the COVID-19 Pandemic
1.4. Current Study
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Quantitative Procedures
2.1.1. Adolescent Survey Recruitment
2.1.2. Survey Samples
2.2. Quantitative Measures
2.2.1. Pet Ownership Characteristics
2.2.2. Adolescent-Pet Interactions and Coping with Stress
2.2.3. Adolescent Identity as a Pet Owner
2.2.4. Family Relationship Quality during COVID-19
2.3. Qualitative Procedures
2.3.1. Parent Interview Recruitment
2.3.2. Parent Interview Sample
2.3.3. Parent Interview Protocol
2.3.4. Analysis Plan
3.1. Quantitative Findings
3.1.1. Adolescents Identifying as a Pet Owner
3.1.2. Coping Strategies when Stressed
3.1.3. Family Relationships during Pandemic
3.2. Qualitative Findings
3.2.1. How Parents Socialize Adolescents to Take Care of Pets
It took a long time for the dog to come into our lives, and so I think a lot of that was talked about … the responsibility… it’s a living thing that you have to take care of. This is not a bicycle you can just throw on the side of the garage or leave outside in the rain like it’s a, it’s a being, it’s a thing, and you have to take care of it… She’s a nightmare at night, running around like a psycho, chewing on things and eating my carpet and chewing on the table, and you know, we’ve had those discussions… the girls are good to clean it up before I find it because they know.
We’ve had pretty good conversations with the kids before we even considered applying for rescues, and we wanted to make sure this is a family decision and we’re not going to just take sole responsibility, you guys need to help out. So we wanted to make sure that this wasn’t going to be a honeymoon period like “oh we love the dog” and then they forget about the dog and they don’t want to take care of the dog. So we made it really clear that they’re going to have to do some work as well.
Okay, [prior to getting a dog,] I envisioned me doing everything because I’m not gonna pretend like my eleven and an eight, nine year old are going to do anything… I knew it was going to be really big dog, so I knew walking the dog was out, like they were not going to be able to, he’s too big… If I say feed the dog, it takes two seconds to feed the dog, so, they’ll do that. They’ll pick up his toys… I think they’ve actually probably done more than I thought they were going to do.
You know, when Eddie got older, it was easier to talk about responsibilities and, when you ask him to do something… It’s so important to [say], “I asked you to feed Lenny. Like, I’m trusting that you’re going to go downstairs and feed him, because then, if you don’t, then he has no food.
It’s really important for [the dog] to go outside so that she doesn’t have these bad behaviors because you know, in puppy years. She’s still a very young dog and, and a young child requires attention and entertainment and exercise and all those things… When [the children] shirk that responsibility, seeing the consequences firsthand what happens when the 25 min walk is a lot better than them screaming for 25 min because the dog’s going crazy and has ruined another rug.
Yeah I mean we always said that they had to help, that the responsibility wasn’t just going to be solely my husband and mine. And then you know with them in school, obviously the responsibility falls more on the people that are home… They never really had that set schedule, they just kind of fell into that but now… the responsibility has fallen on them because they’re home with [the dog] during the day, more than we are.
Yeah, no, I think it’s so much better [raising a dog in a pandemic] because he doesn’t have to be in a crate all day. So, like two days a week he’s in the crate in the morning, and then the dog walker comes, and then he goes back in, and then my daughter comes home and lets him out and then that’s it, you know.
3.2.2. Nature of Adolescent-Pet Bonds
[The cat] cleans [my son] everyday like he cuffs his head and cleans his face and his and it lifts his hair into place… [My son] can hold him like a baby and he just lays on him—he doesn’t do that to any of us… I will never forget the first time, Eddie slept at my mom’s and the cat was miserable. And he came home the next day and laid on the ground and the cat like sniffed him like… People come in and they’re like, “What’s happening?” and I’m like, “Oh, the cats cleaning Eddie…” The cat thinks that Eddie is like his baby.
Nothing felt complete when we didn’t have a pet with the kids so I kind of thought of the dog in terms of kind of completing our family unit and he really has fulfilled that role. And often we kind of say, “what would we do if he wasn’t here?” Like, “how would we entertain ourselves?” That kind of thing.
3.2.3. Fulfillment of Pet Caretaking in Families with Adolescents
Sometimes, even before he wakes up before me. Like this morning, for instance, he woke up before I did, and he had already changed both the [cat’s] water and food. And he knows the exact measurements of food that he gives her from him watching me and my oldest daughter doing it, so he knows exactly the amount of scoop to put in her bowl…This morning was the second, maybe third, time he’s done that, without me being there watching.
When he was little he loved to feed her and take her for a walk and even now, that’s like, I don’t even have to ask him… But I mean it’s one of those things that he doesn’t really think is a chore because it’s just a thing that he does every day like, “Oh, I have to take care of the animals”. It’s never something that I asked him to do.
His turtles are his sole responsibility. I don’t take care of them at all. He feeds them, he cleans their tank, he plays with them. So, that’s his completely. The rest of the animals, he takes care of them at least 50% of the time. When my daughter’s home, they actually fight about who’s going to feed the dog or who’s going to walk the dog, which I think is fine.
So if you know, like if, if I am tired and I’m like, “Mila, take Theo out”, you know stuff like that. And they’re fine with that, so yeah I don’t think there are rules. And, ok, Mila is kind of like on top of things in general. Like, she’s responsible and mature and so… Mila makes sure that he gets his, for example, his medicine. Like he has something monthly.
Both of our girls, part of their chores are changing the cats’ water, changing their litter, feeding them every day, so they have a decent amount of their caretaking… I actually divide it for them. I made up a chore chart. So they have to do the cat litter together. My older child takes care of the changing of the water, and then they each do one feeding per day.
Yeah, I mean if I’m not around my husband, happily, you know we’ll do the litter, feed her, but if I’m around she usually follows me. She has to take thyroid medication, so you know we drop a little pill, and all that stuff so, yeah, usually I’m the primary.
I would like them to even take more initiations of like, I hate to say it, but like to clean up after the pets. I mean you can’t just do it twice a year. So I think that would be the only thing [to improve upon]— for them to take more responsibility.
And it’s not that they don’t love her they do, but they’re not devoted to her care, you know? It’s more of an, “oh she’s here and let’s pet her”… In terms of meeting her emotional needs, I don’t see that... She loves to have someone throw the ball, take her outside and throw the ball with her and they never do it.
I think that having a pet has taught her responsibility. I think that you know emotionally like you know your pet… they sense when things are not okay. And she does. I don’t know that all pets are as intuitive as is she is, but she does. Like so she’ll sit with you, like last time we were going down the street and Abby came home early and I came in and I was like, “What are you doing?” And she was like, “I was just cuddling with Sydney”. It’s just a relationship that is so great for her it’s so great, for all of them.
5. Limitations and Conclusions
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Pet Owners||Dog Owners|
|Eligibility for Free/Reduced Price School Lunch * (Yes)||225||39.7||139||39|
|Identity as a Pet Owner||567||44.1||356||46.3|
|Quality of family relationships|
|Stayed the Same||289||51.1||180||50.7|
|N||M (SD)||N||M (SD)|
|Age||567||13.09 (1.52)||356||13.24 (1.54)|
|Pet Responsibility||543||3.25 (1.24)||351||3.25 (1.18)|
|Spending time with pet when stressed||471||3.36 (0.92)||299||3.44 (0.82)|
|Identity as a Pet Owner|
|Pet Owner||Dog Owner|
|B||SE||Odds Ratio||p-Value||B||SE||Odds Ratio||p-Value|
|Free/Reduced Price Lunch||0.19||0.19||1.21||0.316||0.24||0.24||1.27||0.315|
|Spending Time with Pets When Stressed|
|Pet Owner||Dog Owner|
|Free/Reduced Price Lunch||0.03||0.09||0.02||0.727||−0.02||0.1||−0.01||0.873|
|Quality of Family Relationships|
|Pet Owner||Dog Owner|
|Free/Reduced Price Lunch||−0.19||0.08||−0.1||0.023||−0.25||0.1||−0.13||0.015|
|I. How parents socialize adolescents to take care of pets||Conversations with adolescents before getting pets|
|No petcare expectations|
|Lessons surrounding pet care|
|COVID-19 and changing adolescent petcare expectations|
|II. Nature of adolescent-pet bonds||Pets as family members|
|Challenges of pets in families|
|III. Fulfillment of pet caretaking in families with adolescents||Adolescents volunteering to take care of pets|
|Blend of volunteering and assignment to take care of pets|
|Adolescents assigned to take care of pets|
|Parent petcare responsibilities|
|Parent expectations of adolescent petcare|
|Pet relationships and coping strategies|
|Pet versus dog-owning adolescents|
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Charmaraman, L.; Kiel, E.; Richer, A.M.; Gramajo, A.; Mueller, M.K. Associations between Pet Care Responsibility, Companion Animal Interactions, and Family Relationships during COVID-19. Animals 2022, 12, 3274. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12233274
Charmaraman L, Kiel E, Richer AM, Gramajo A, Mueller MK. Associations between Pet Care Responsibility, Companion Animal Interactions, and Family Relationships during COVID-19. Animals. 2022; 12(23):3274. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12233274Chicago/Turabian Style
Charmaraman, Linda, Elizabeth Kiel, Amanda M. Richer, Alyssa Gramajo, and Megan K. Mueller. 2022. "Associations between Pet Care Responsibility, Companion Animal Interactions, and Family Relationships during COVID-19" Animals 12, no. 23: 3274. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12233274