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How Religion Predicts Pet Ownership in the United States

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Abstract

Over 60 percent of Americans have some sort of family pet. Although studies have explored the personality and demographic correlates of pet ownership, none have considered whether religious characteristics may influence not only pet ownership, but the kind of pet Americans own. Drawing on data from the 2018 General Social Survey, we examine the religious antecedents of pet ownership in general as well as owning a cat or a dog, taking into account factors previously associated with owning certain pets (e.g., urban vs. rural residence, political affiliation). Although religious tradition and biblical literalism generally do not predict pet ownership, frequent worship attendees and the most conservative evangelicals report owning fewer pets. Religious characteristics also predict Americans’ ownership of particular pets. Most notably, we find a strong, negative association between worship attendance and cat ownership. We theorize potential mechanisms. On the one hand, certain personality types might simultaneously attract some Americans toward religious participation and away from pets, and cats in particular. Alternatively, to the extent that pet ownership is a partial substitute for human bonding and interaction, Americans more deeply embedded within a religious community may have less need (or time) for pets generally, and specifically more independent “roommate pets,” like cats.

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APA

Perry, S. L., & Burge, R. P. (2020). How Religion Predicts Pet Ownership in the United States. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 59(1), 190–201. https://doi.org/10.1111/jssr.12637

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