A team of researchers based at the University of Georgia are embarking on a two-year study to examine the effects of pet companionship on the mental and emotional health of older adults.
The study, funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), will track older adults who have been paired with shelter cats from the Athens Area Humane Society and the University of Georgia’s Campus Cats rescue organization. Participants will be assessed on their perceived loneliness, purpose of life, emotional wellbeing, as well as their attachment to their foster cat. A total of 34 older adult/cat pairs will be monitored over the course of the study. The research team predicts that participants will exhibit lower rates of loneliness and depression along with improvements in mental health.
The feline participants in the study will receive veterinary care, including being spayed or neutered and screened for FeLV/FIV, prior to being paired with human participants. During the course of the study, cats will be periodically monitored by the research team and all of the supplies needed to care for the foster cats will provided to participants by Nestlé Purina.
“Housing and health are essential to overall well-being, a fact known to pertain to both humans and animals. We have proposed a unique solution to help older adults living alone at home establish new social bonds, by pairing them with homeless foster cats.”
— Heidi Ewen, Assistant Professor, Colleges of Public Health and Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia