AIMS: The aim of the work presented here was to explore differences between pet owners and non-pet-owners concerning aspects of health, physical/leisure activities, work and socio-demographics. METHODS: The study was based on nationally representative data from the Swedish population (n = 43,589). Associations between pet ownership and background variables were investigated using logistic regression analysis. RESULTS: A total of 39,995 respondents were included in the analysis (non-pet-owners = 25,006; pet owners = 14,989). Pet ownership was associated with both positive and negative aspects of health, physical/leisure activities and socio-demographics. Pet owners had better general health but suffered more from mental health problems than non-pet-owners. Their leisure activities involved a greater interest in nature life and/or gardening than those of non-pet-owners. The logistic regression analysis showed that people who were self-employed, in the age range 35 to 49, of female sex, and suffering from pain in the head, neck and shoulders were more likely to own a pet than others. People physically active at a level sufficient to have a positive effect on their health more often owned a pet than people who were less active. CONCLUSIONS: Pet owners differ from non-pet-owners in aspects of socio-demographics, health, physical/leisure activities and work situation. This study, based on a general regional population in Sweden, showed differences of both a positive and a negative kind between non-pet-owners and pet owners concerning aspects of health, physical and leisure activities, and work situation.