Pets and changing homes: the views of care experienced children/young people

This study explores the nature of care-experienced children's relationships with pets and the impact of housing/home transitions.

Our project focuses on understanding the impact of changing homes/housing on children and young people's relationships with their pets, with a view to identifying how support can be put in place to maintain relationships and/or help those who have lost a pet. Our research involves interviews with care leavers and an online survey with children and young people who have care experience. 

The aim of the project is to explore the significance of pets for children and young people with care experience and examine the impact of disruptions to those relationships when moving into or between care settings. It recognises the significant change that these children and young people encounter and the important role that pets can play in terms of: 

  • providing support, companionship and affection
  • helping to develop positive relationships with other people

Our findings from this study were consistent across the following points:

  • The impact of having a pet during childhood, especially when experiencing difficult relationships in the family (mental health benefits and attachment figure, the only secure base for some)
  • The emotional impact of losing a special animal
  • The significance of dogs as opposed to other types of pet

They also indicated that securely attached individuals had higher self-esteem and better quality of life than those who had insecure (ambivalent or avoidant) attachment styles and that, regardless of gender or attachment style, attachment to a pet that had been important to them was extremely strong.

Read more about our findings from this study

Funded by the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS).