Background: The love, joy and sense of connection between humans and animal companions can bring shared health benefits. Often this is referred to as the ‘pet effect’. Previous research on the ‘pet effect’ suggests that living with an animal companion, and especially one who is considered part of the family, can increase human wellbeing, though to date research has rarely focused on trans people and the ‘pet effect’.
Aims: This article explores the ‘pet effect’ in the lives of trans people, given that trans people may uniquely benefit from animal companionship as a counter to the negative effects of living in cisgenderist contexts.
Methods: A secondary analysis of three studies was undertaken (N = 857 participants residing in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the UK or the US). Studies included measures of psychological distress, human social support, and trans-related discrimination, with all participants being asked if they lived with animals and if so, if they considered animals to be part of the family.
Results: Trans-related marginalization explained the greatest amount of variance in psychological distress (β =.398, p =.001), with social support (β = −0.198, p =.001), living with animals (β =.149, p =.001), and animals being part of the family (β = 0.196, p =.001) explaining additional variance. Age (β = −0.322, p =.001) and employment status (β =.147, p =.001) were the only demographic variables that explained variance in psychological distress among participants who lived with animals considered part of the family.
Discussion: The findings suggest that animal companions make a unique contribution to the wellbeing of trans people. The article concludes by exploring implications of these findings for future research and practice with regard to the ‘pet effect’ and trans people.
- animal companions
- psychological distress
- social connectedness
- trans people
- trans-related discrimination
- ‘pet effect’