- Pet owners believe their animals meant they have been less lonely during the pandemic, as well as giving them a sense of purpose.
- Dog walkers appreciate the social interaction they get from being out and about, and get a boost for their mental health.
- The number of people looking to adopt a pet has rocketed during the pandemic, but there are downsides as well as upsides to animal ownership.
- Pets have also seen benefits from having us at home more.
They slobber. They whine. They leave paw prints and fur over the sofa. But we love our pets. And being locked down with them for long periods over the pandemic has made us appreciate them all the more.
With many countries now relaxing rules and freedoms gradually being reinstated, a growing band of research is demonstrating how much of a crutch our furry friends have been during what has been a tough time for many.
Pet owners overwhelmingly believe that their animals have boosted their well being during the pandemic, staving off loneliness, according to a recent study by the University of the West of Scotland
“Despite being physically isolated from friends, family or colleagues, having a pet meant never truly being alone,” says Heather Clements, UWS Ph.D. student on the study. “Companion animals not only helped to take their guardians’ minds off negative thoughts associated with the pandemic, but also provided a much-needed source of purpose.”
It’s not just dogs and cats that gave our well-being a boost
Image: MDPI/University of the West of Scotland
As well as the companionship from pets themselves, they can also serve as a social catalyst. Even in the tightest of lockdowns, owners were allowed to walk their dogs, potentially offering small windows of socially-distanced interaction with other people.
Recent research suggests that older people who walk their dogs experience fewer symptoms of loneliness than those who don’t walk their dogs. And among people that felt coronavirus had cramped their social lives, those that walked their dogs once a day did not report feeling more lonely.
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