Methods: U.S. pet owners completed an anonymous Qualtrics survey shared online between April-July 2020. The sample used for analyses consisted of 1453 adults (Mage=39.4 years, 12.6% racial/ethnic minority; 21.8% SGM). Responses to demographic questions were dichotomized; individuals who reported a sexual orientation and/or a gender identity other than heterosexual or cisgender, respectively, were coded as a SGM. Two questions asking participants if they would delay or avoid testing or treatment due to concern for their pet’s welfare were used to measure the dichotomized dependent variables (yes/maybe=1, no=0). Attachment to pets and social support were measured using the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (ω=.91) and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (ω=.93), respectively. We conducted two simple moderation analyses using PROCESS in SPSS to investigate whether attachment to pets moderated the relation between SGM status and the likelihood of delaying or avoiding testing or treatment. Additionally, we conducted two additive multiple moderation analyses that included attachment to pets and social support as moderators in each model. We adjusted for the effects of multiple sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, employment, health insurance status).
Results: Attachment to pets moderated the association between SGM status and the likelihood of delaying or avoiding testing for COVID-19 in the simple moderation analysis (b=.82, Z=2.09, p=.04). SGM participants were more likely than non-SGM participants to report that they would delay or avoid testing when they reported high attachment to their pet (b=.75, OR=2.11, Z=2.51, p=.01). Attachment to pets was also a moderator of the relation between SGM status and the likelihood of delaying or avoiding testing for COVID-19 in the additive multiple moderation model, when social support was held constant (b=.82, Z=2.05, p=.04). SGM participants were more likely than non-SGM participants to indicate intent to delay or avoid testing when they concurrently reported high attachment to pets and low (b=.75, OR=2.12, Z=2.48, p=.01) or moderate (b=.73, OR=2.08, Z=2.14, p=.03) levels of social support. Attachment to pets did not significantly moderate the relation between SGM status and the likelihood of delaying treatment for COVID-19 in the simple moderation analysis or the multiple moderation analyses.
Conclusion/Implications: Our findings suggest that SGM participants that are highly attached to their pet, but lack a supportive social network to care for their pet in their absence, may be more likely to delay or avoid testing for COVID-19 due to worries about their pet’s welfare. It is critical that resources related to pet care are available to underserved populations, such as SGM populations.