Studies that have reported on the loneliness protective effect of pet ownership have recently been called into question owing to methodological drawbacks, including the use of inappropriate scales of measurement for loneliness in pet owner samples. It has also been recently demonstrated that pet interactions may only influence positive, not negative, human affect. In light of these recent advances, the current study aimed to create a new scale focusing on the inverse experience of loneliness: connectedness. An initial 24-item scale was developed using qualitative data collected from our previous study investigating the impact of pet ownership for Australians living alone during a government-enforced lockdown in response to COVID-19. Study 1 included 934 dog and cat owners who self-selected into the online study. Factor analyses revealed two distinct factors, and only items that loaded uniquely on one factor were retained. Study 2 included 526 dog and cat owners who self-selected into the online study, which confirmed the two-factor structure and established validity and reliability of the scale. The result was a 14-item Pet Owner Connectedness Scale (POCS) with two subscales: (i) owner–pet connection, and (ii) connectedness through pet. Hence, we present evidence for a new scale that can be used to measure the positive social states of connectedness that owners may gain from their pets. This may provide a good alternative to more traditional methods such as measuring the buffering effect pets have on negative social states such as loneliness. It may also offer a more robust method to measure the impact of pet interactions on their owners.
- human–animal interaction