Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Kathryn Hausbeck

Number of Pages



Keeping companion animals is commonplace. Each year Americans spend over 34.3 billion dollars on pet food, pet toys, and veterinary care, and within households, the person with primary responsibility for the care of a pet is usually female (American Pet Product Manufacturers Association 24(34). Although literature on the human/animal bond is becoming more extensive, relatively little has been written about the dynamics of the daily social interaction between humans---specifically women---and pets. In response to this lack of literature, this study asks: What is the nature of the social interplay between women and their companion animals? And how do women integrate their companion animals into their self-perceptions?;Drawing upon the symbolic interactionist theories of Mead, Cooley, Blumer, and Goffman, and Nippert-Eng's book Home and Work, I have attempted to broaden their insights to include the roles companion animals might play. Although only Mead considered companion animals in his research, the inclusion of human/pet relationships into these other theories adds a new dimension to classic symbolic interactionist thought; This research reveals that the women in my study use boundaries, identity, and ritual to structure their relationships with their pets. For example, some women choose to restrict the movements of their companion animals within their homes (segmentors), while others place no such restrictions on their pets (integrators). Women also use bridging techniques to create a special bond between themselves and their pets. These findings shed light on the nature of social interplay between women and their companion animals; In addition, there are three primary ways in which women integrate companion animals into their self-perceptions. First, they see themselves and their companion animals as teammates or fellow performers. Second, they believe that their sense of personal understanding and awareness of animal-related issues has been influenced by their companion animals. Third, they see their pets as family members. These three ways of connecting with pets profoundly shape women's sense of self-concept.


Animals; Companion; Companion Animals; Formation; Human; Human-pet Interaction; Identity; Interaction; Pet; Women

Controlled Subject


File Format


File Size

3788.8 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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