Study explores impact of pets on pandemic loneliness

Companion animal owners said their pets had positive effects on their well-being during the pandemic, according to a new study.

The study – led by the University of the West of Scotland, supported by the Waltham Petcare Science Institute and published in open-access journal Animals – examined the link between companion animals and their owners (referred to as guardians in the study) during COVID-19.

It also provided evidence that many guardians perceived emotional benefits from their relationship with their pet and that this translated into a greater bond.

The large-scale study featured a qualitative component within a larger quantitative study, and while data showed no association between guardianship and loneliness or well-being, owners believed the effects did exist.

In a survey of 1,199 participants, 85% of dog owners and 75% of cat owners believe their pets had an extremely or moderately positive effect, with around 10% of dog owners and 20% of cat owners discerning no or minimal effect.

Socially distanced connections with other people, for example during dog walks, also was shown to have been beneficial.

‘Never truly alone’
Heather Clements, PhD student on the study from the University of the West of Scotland, said: “Despite being physically isolated from friends, family or colleagues, having a pet meant never truly being alone.

“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.”

Further research
Additional confirmatory studies will be needed to offer insight into how long the positive effects of companion animals lasted.

Darren Logan, head of research at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, said: “Identifying the specific aspects of keeping companion animals that were beneficial during the pandemic will allow researchers to develop and test more theories regarding the impact of the human-animal bond for people and animals alike.

“As we have learned over the past several decades of study, the human-animal bond is nuanced and deserves continued rigorous scientific research to better understand when and how it influences people’s mental and physical health, while also ensuring the welfare of the animals.”

Credit to: Study explores impact of pets on pandemic loneliness (Vet Times)

Vet Times. (2021). Study explores impact of pets on pandemic loneliness [online]

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