Owner’s Anthropomorphic Perceptions of Cats’ and Dogs’ Abilities Are Related to the Social Role of Pets, Owners’ Relationship Behaviors, and Social Support

Esther M. C. Bouma*, Arie Dijkstra, Stella Arnt Rosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Background: For sustainable and healthy relationships with pets, attributing some degree of human abilities to the pet (anthropomorphization) might be necessary. We hypothesize that the tendency to anthropomorphize pet animals is related to relationship behaviors (communication and making up) and the experience of social support. Perceiving the pet in a human social role (e.g., family member or friend) might mediate this relationship. Method: Associations were tested in a mixed sample of cat and dog owners by means of multiple linear regression, moderation, and (moderated) mediation analyses. The differences between cat and dog owners were examined with pet type as the moderator in a moderated mediation analysis. Results: Dog owners anthropomorphize their pets more than cat owners. The social role of the pet mediates the association between anthropomorphization and relationship behavior and social support. The mediation effects were stronger for cat owners than for dog owners. Moreover, our newly developed comparative anthropomorphism measure was a better predictor than the commonly used general anthropomorphism measure (IDAQ).

Original languageEnglish
Article number3644
Number of pages13
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2023


  • anthropomorphization
  • cats
  • cognitive abilities
  • dogs
  • emotions
  • relationship behavior
  • social abilities
  • social role
  • social support

Cite this