When support is “pawsed”: Increased attachment mediates the association between loss of support and pet bereavement during the pandemic

Victoria L. O’connor, Jennifer Vonk, Katherine Compitus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced and exacerbated innumerable stressors for Americans. Pet ownership has been shown to help individuals cope with stress and loneliness. However, given the shorter life spans of most pets compared to humans, many pet owners inevitably dealt with pet loss and its associated grief during the pandemic. We surveyed 284 community and college participants that had suffered the loss of a pet during the pandemic. We asked these pet owners about their pandemic-related experiences over the preceding year with regard to the types of losses they experienced, whether they experienced isolation through quarantine and their perception of social support. We also measured their general attachment to pets along with the grief they felt as a result of pet loss. We hypothesized that greater loss, increased isolation, and reduced social support would lead to increased attachment to pets, which would intensify the experience of grief. Mediated regression analyses revealed a direct effect of loss on grief that was not mediated through attachment. Unexpectedly, greater perceived social support showed an indirect effect on grief through stronger attachment to pets. Results confirm prior findings that greater pet attachment leads to more intense pet grief, but the attachment was not intensified through loss of support social or increased isolation as predicted. It is important to recognize the substantial impact of pet loss, especially during stressful times, and this topic deserves further investigation, perhaps with a greater focus on the type of pet and pet-specific measures of attachment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHuman-Animal Interactions
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • attachment
  • grief
  • isolation
  • pet loss
  • social support
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)


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