Household Cats and Children’s Mental Health

Moira R. Riley, PhD
Bonita Gibb
Anne Gadomski, MD, MPH
Bassett Research Institute

Abstract

Despite household cats being the second most popular household pet in the United States, little is known about how cat ownership affects children’s development. Although household cats are generally believed to have a positive effect on adult health there are potential risks and benefits of cat ownership for children. This study is a secondary analysis of the data presented in Gadomski et al. (2015) and considers the effects of household cat ownership on parent’s report of children’s mental health using data from a cross sectional survey of parents with 4-10 year old children attending a rural pediatric clinic (n=643). Parents provided information on household pet ownership and rated children’s mental health. After controlling for child age, poverty, and parent depression, household cat ownership was associated with more attention problems (b=1.38, SE=.53, p<.01). Although this association does not imply causality, our results suggest the need for future research regarding the relationship between household cat ownership and children’s mental health.