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Sociology of strong subjective proximity to the cat, to the dog

Emilie Morand, François de Singly

Research Framework : There is very little work in France on the relationships that adults have with their pets, although we can see their growing importance.

Objectives : Starting from the observation that adults who have a pet in their home declare themselves close to it, we seek, on the one hand, to approach the social conditions that vary this subjective feeling of proximity, and, on the other hand, to describe some of the components of this bond of proximity : tactile proximity and conversational proximity.

Methodology : This article is based on the results of a questionnaire survey that took place between 2016 and 2017 among 2977 dog and cat owners who declared themselves close to their animal.

Results : We observe that (a) conversational proximity contributes more than tactile proximity to the production of subjective proximity ; (b) working-class women are those who feel closest to their pets ; (c) those who feel closest are those who declare their dogs or cats to be « full family members », thus underlining the strength of their bond without necessarily denying animal identity.

Conclusions : This article describes the content of a close relationship between an adult and his animal, the determinants that explain the variation in the intensity of this human-animal relationship and the related practices.

Contribution : On the one hand, the work presented is a contribution to the sociology of human-non-human relations because it allows an objectification of the relationship between humans and their animals. On the other hand, it contributes to broadening the sociology of the family by integrating the animal as a member of the family.