Background: Companion animals may reduce depression and loneliness in socially isolated homebound older adults. However, whether owning a cat or dog is more beneficial in this population remains unknown.

Materials and Methods: Pet attachment and the levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness were examined in 39 homebound older adults who exclusively owned a cat(s) or a dog(s). Cat owners (n = 12) and dog owners (n=27) were assessed for depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form), loneliness (R-UCLA Loneliness Scale), and attachment to pets (Likert scale).

Results: Cat owners reported significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than dog owners (t= 2.12; p = 0.04). There were no significant differences between cat owners and dog owners in regards to levels of loneliness (t = -0.83; p = 0.41). Both cat owners and dog owners reported a high level of attachment to pets (Median=10 of 10).

Conclusions: Although this study provides preliminary evidence that owning a cat to which one is attached is associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms than owning a dog to which one is attached in homebound older adults, the findings should be replicated with longitudinal studies. Findings from such studies may assist homebound older adults in selecting either a cat or dog as a companion pet.

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