Edith Cowan University
Companion animals are found in the majority of western households. In surveys it has been found that companion animals are often viewed as family members. There is debate in psychological literature on what people mean when they describe companion animals in familial terms, with three theoretical frameworks posited to help explain the pets-as-family phenomena. Attachment theorists suggest that pets meet all four criteria for psychological attachment. Other researchers have suggested that companion animals are positioned within family systems, and are part of the dynamic interplay between human family members. Evolutionary psychologists have suggested that companion animals take advantage of in-built nurturing mechanisms in humans. The present study utilises interpretive phenomenology to explore the unique perspective of a new romantic partner’s perspective of a pre-existing human-pet dyad. Eight participants, four male and four female are interviewed using semi-structured questioning to find emergent themes. Each theory will be critically evaluated in reference to these themes, and suggestions for further research in this area will be proposed.